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The Watford Observer
15 Jul 2003
By Lucy Brinicombe
The success of anti-depressant drug Seroxat has been marred by controversy. Senior reporter LUCY BRINICOMBE meets one woman who believes Seroxat changed her into a dangerously different person before she stopped taking it…
DURING the 18 months Sara Lyon took Seroxat, she says her GP’s solution to her continued depression was to triple the dosage.
Her parents noticed a change in her behaviour, but she only acknowledged things were not right when she realised she was having suicidal thoughts and was self-harming, to the point she was taken to hospital to have four stitches in her arm.
After finding out more about the possible negative side effects on the internet, the 29-year-old, of St Vincents Road, Dartford, went against medical advice and stopped taking the drug.
Six months on, she says she still finds herself craving the drug at times and insists it is addictive.
But she said: “I knew I couldn’t carry on like that. It would have killed me otherwise.” Miss Lyon, who has a nine-year-old daughter, was prescribed Seroxat after coming out of a relationship which lasted seven years.
She said: “Seroxat had a funny effect on me. It made me so paranoid I did not want to leave the house. I felt so isolated and I think it’s a drug that needs to be banned.” GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which manufactures the drug, says self-harming and suicidal thoughts are symptoms of depression, not of the treatment.
But Miss Lyon said: “It’s hard to prove it’s the drug but if you’ve never self-harmed, then what does that say. I have to look at the scars every day and know it was me who did it.” She wants people to know what happened to her and to help people on Seroxat who could be suffering the possible side effects.
But GSK and GPs are quick to defend the drug as a breakthrough treatment which has helped thousands of people across the globe.
Dartford MP Dr Howard Stoate, who is a GP in Bexleyheath, said: “Seroxat is a very good drug and it’s certainly helped thousands of people worldwide.” He added: “Clearly, there are question marks on side effects in a small group of people, especially when people try to come off it.” A GSK spokesman said: “No treatment is perfect for every individual patient.
“It is a matter for the doctor, in conjunction with the patient, to decide what is the best treatment for them.” He added: “There is no compelling evidence Seroxat or this class of medicines are linked to an increased risk of suicide.” The company also rejects Seroxat is addictive and says patients should seek medical advice before halting the medication.
Miss Lyon is setting up an email helpline and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org Information on the side effects of Seroxat can found by visiting www.seroxatusergroup.org.uk
FACTS ABOUT SEROXAT
Seroxat was first licensed in 1990 and is a second generation SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitor).
It treats depression by controlling the levels of serotonin — which affects the mood — in the brain.
Seroxat is one of the most widely-used and successful anti-depressants, but a small number of people say it is addictive and has led to self-harming or suicidal thoughts.
According to GSK, suicide rates have fallen by 15 per cent as anti-depressant usage has increased since the 1990s.
New guidelines from the Committee on Safety of Medicines last month warned against doctors prescribing Seroxat to under-18s.
In 2001 a US family won £4.6m damages after a court found the drug caused Donald Schell to kill his wife, daughter and granddaughter before killing himself.