Anti-depressant may be linked to man's death: Quebec coroner — (CBC News)

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CBC News

Posted: Jan 23, 2002 4:25 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 23, 2002 4:25 PM ET

The Quebec coroner is asking Health Canada to take a closer look at the death of a Montreal man who was on a drug prescribed to help people quit smoking when he died.

The coroner has released a report that says Zyban may be partly to blame for the man’s death.

Zyban helps smokers quit by working on the brain to curb nicotine cravings. It is also used to treat depression, under the name Wellbutrin.

David Landry of Montreal was prescribed the drug to help him quit smoking last year.

Landry told friends his heart was racing after he started taking the drug. The 27-year-old died nine days after he started taking the drug.

Landry had a healthy heart but suffered a fatal arrythmia: the heart beat fell out of sync, triggering a heart attack.

The coroner says he suspects Zyban was part of the cause. He recommends the case be brought to the attention of Health Canada and drugmaker Glaxo SmithKline.

At least 19 Canadians have died while taking Zyban or Wellbutrin, prescribed for depression.

More than 1,100 adverse reactions from skin rashes to seizures have been reported to Health Canada.

The manufacturer says there is no proof the drug has caused the reactions or the deaths.

The warnings on the drug say people with a history of seizures or eating disorders, or anyone taking another antidepressant should not take Zyban.

It also warns patients to stop taking the drug if they experience signs of an allergic reaction, such as a rash, hives or difficulty breathing.

Vallaincourt studied the side effects reported by soldiers prescribed Zyban.

He advised:

  • prescriptions be limited to a two-week supply so patients are      forced to report any side effects to the pharmacist
  • only soldiers with access to doctors can take Zyban

Health Canada is monitoring the drug. Last year, it ordered GlaxoSmithKline to write letters to doctors about the number of Canadians reporting side effects. It also reminds them how to correctly prescribe Zyban and Wellbutrin.

Just last week, authorities in Britain announced they were investigating the deaths of 57 people who had been taking Zyban.