Slaying suspect refused mental help, friends say — (Denver Post)

SSRI Ed note: Man kills wife in a murder-suicide bid shortly after Prozac dose doubled. Mental illness blamed.

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The Denver Post

September 20, 1991

Author: Mark Eddy and Ed Will; Denver Post Staff Writers; DENVER POST

Friends and relatives of murder victim Jan Coleman said yesterday her husband refused to get treatment for his mental illness even though he knew he was sick.

Bill Coleman remained in critical condition yesterday at Swedish Medical Center with what police believe is a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his wife and her friend, Luke McKee, Monday night at the Colemans’ Steamboat Springs home.

“He was just sick, and he’s been sick for years,” said a family friend who didn’t want to be named. “He wouldn’t get help, and that’s why they were getting a divorce.” She and Jan Coleman’s sister, Jill Holt, said Jan told them that Bill Coleman was not taking the controversial antidepressant Prozac.

“He didn’t go (to the doctor), and he wouldn’t take his medicine, and he wouldn’t get treatment,” Holt said.

But other friends of Bill Coleman said he began taking the drug a month ago and the dosage had been doubled in the last week.

No immediate effect

Dr. Mark Rhine, adult clinic director at Columbine Psychiatric Center in Littleton, said Prozac takes four to eight weeks to kick in after a patient starts taking it.

While he wouldn’t double a patient’s dosage after four weeks, some doctors would do that if a patient was becoming impatient with the medication, Rhine said. In such case, the dosage later would be dropped to the normal 20 milligrams daily.

Prozac was developed by Eli Lilly & Co. and was introduced in 1988 after the Food and Drug Administration took four years to approve it.

Doctors soon began to write prescriptions for it at a rate of 2-to-1 over the 12 to 15 other antidepressants combined, and it became a darling of the media. A Newsweek cover story touted it as a miracle drug.

Fewer side effects

But Prozac is no more or no less effective than any of the other antidepressants, said Rhine and Dr. Steven Dubovsky, a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Prozac is popular because if has fewer side effects than the others, they said.

Is suicide or violence a side effect for some patients?

“I have not seen any in my own practice, and I have not heard of any,” Rhine said. “I know there has been a lot of stuff in the media about this, but there have been a number of studies and a lot of investigation, and there is nothing in the psychiatric literature that woulds suggest there is any connection of Prozac with suicidal behavior or violence.”

Dubovsky agreed. He also noted the FDA just finished studying the drug and again cleared it as safe.

The Washington Post last month reported that some 20 people accused of murder or assault have adopted the “Prozac defense.” Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Lilly by survivors of Prozac patients who committed suicide.
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Record Number:  DNVR93755