Original article no longer available
The North-West Evening Mail
Published on 14/03/2008
WORRIES: Coroner Ian Smith
SOUTH Cumbria coroner Ian Smith will contact drug authorities because he fears people are killing themselves after taking antidepressants.
Mr Smith is to write to the Committee on the Safety of Medicines – an independent advisory body on the quality and safety of medicines – following the inquest into the death of Nigel Woodburn.
Mr Woodburn drove into a tree just four days after being prescribed controversial antidepressants.
The retired bank manager, of Bardsea Green, was killed at the wheel of his car on June 16, minutes after confessing to his wife he’d had suicidal thoughts. He had been prescribed Citalopram after becoming depressed through ill health.
His heart-broken family said they were not aware of the suicide risks associated with antidepressants until the issue was highlighted at Mr Woodburn’s inquest this week.
Mr Smith told Tuesday’s inquest he knew of several other suspected suicides involving the same group of antidepressants, known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
He said: “I have to say this is probably the fifth, if not sixth inquest I’ve heard within a period of three years when somebody either just going on to Citalopram or Seroxat, or coming off it, have killed themselves one way or another, totally out of the blue, totally without expectation, without a history of suicidal thoughts in the past.”
Mr Woodburn’s stepson, Gareth Salton, said: “I want people to understand the effects these drugs have.
“I want people to know it isn’t just something you read about in the national media.”
On the morning of his death, Mr Woodburn, 68, told his wife Rita he’d been thinking of killing himself.
“Even at that time I wasn’t unduly concerned,” she said.
“I didn’t think for a minute he was going to do anything silly.”
Mrs Woodburn went to ring her son, Gareth, and when she returned to the sitting room her husband had gone and the car was missing.
He travelled a short distance, in his pyjamas and dressing gown, along the A5087 coast road before crashing into a tree.
Collision investigator PC Philip Murray confirmed tyre tracks on the grass verge were consistent with rolling wheels, which indicates brakes weren’t applied.
Consultant histopathologist at Furness General Hospital, Dr Marek Witkowski, said the cause of death was a head injury.
Mr Woodburn had also suffered a ruptured aorta, which Dr Witkowski said raised questions about whether this caused the accident or happened upon impact.
Mr Smith said: “I think it is highly unlikely this man, who had just expressed for the first time in his life thoughts about suicide, should just by chance have had the ruptured aorta which caused the accident.”
Mr Smith returned a narrative verdict that Mr Woodburn died in a road vehicle collision.
He added: “I think what happened to Mr Woodburn was in part as a result of the drugs he was taking. There has been publicity about these drugs recently, particularly relating to younger adults, and it does seem to me it’s something that needs to highlighted.”
After the inquest, Mr Salton, 40, added: “I want people to know how awful these drugs are, and that when friends and family are put on these drugs to recognise what might happen, so they don’t go through the nine months of self-recrimination that this family has.”
Coroner’s officer Liz Gaskell stressed that anybody concerned about these antidepressants must consult their GP.