CITY BUSINESS ACE TO SUE DRUG GIANT OVER MEDICINE — (The Press and Journal)

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The Press and Journal

08:50 – 29 January 2008

An award-winning young entrepreneur from the north-east is ready to do battle in court with one of the biggest drug companies in the world.

Stuart Ebdy wants to sue GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for £50,000 because he claims one of its products caused him “personal injuries”.

Mr Ebdy, who lives in Aberdeen and runs companies based in the city and at Fraserburgh, is one of several hundred people planning to take legal action against GSK over its antidepressant Seroxat, also known as paroxetine.

Information about the court action contained in a writ issued at the High Court in London was made public yesterday.

Mr Ebdy, who is involved in six limited companies and has previously been crowned Scotland’s young entrepreneur of the year, says he has suffered “undisclosed personal injuries” because of the drug.

The 25-year-old and hundreds of other Seroxat users worldwide claim their lives have been blighted by addiction to the drug – GSK’s biggest-selling antidepressant.

Some users say they have contemplated suicide after taking it, although it is designed to restore their happiness and confidence.

After the drug was introduced to the market, GSK received reports of suicide and suicide attempts during therapy.

In 2006, father-of-two James Aitken, a Seroxat user, was jailed for four years at the High Court in Edinburgh after wielding a chainsaw around a family home where he was working as a gardener.

During the case, experts examined the possible part played by the drug in the incident.

In 2003, a Seroxat user from Perth who stole a bank card from her boss walked free after a sheriff ruled the incident was “out of character”.

During her trial, Kerry Magee said: “I had been suffering from depression for some time. I was put on Seroxat, which I did not feel helped any.”

A TV documentary team investigated the drug and its side effects in 2003 and claimed it had a “dark side” that led to users suffering “serious” withdrawal symptoms when they tried to stop using it.

In a letter GSK sent to healthcare professionals in the US who had requested information about the risk of suicide in adults taking Seroxat, the firm claimed its antidepressants were distributed with due warning.

The company said the prescribing information came with a “black box warning” outlining an “increased risk” of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in children, adolescents and young adults. Mr Ebdy refused to comment on the court action last night.

However, Mark Harvey, a solicitor acting for people in a similar situation, said: “All the claimants allege that they tried to withdraw from Seroxat and have suffered discontinuation syndrome.”

A spokesman for GSK said yesterday he could not comment on individual cases but did say the firm believed there was “no merit” in the legal action. “Seroxat has benefited millions of people worldwide who have suffered from depression,” he said. “We do not believe the product is defective and are continuing to defend the litigation.”

In 2006, Mr Ebdy, of Bedford Road, was named young entrepreneur of the year for Scotland.

Last year, he teamed up with Fraserburgh-based brewery boss James Watt for a new venture focusing on the personal branding of beer. Brandbeer.com allows customers to design their own beer bottle labels. Mr Ebdy’s other companies, which are mostly internet-based, include a print-and-design firm and an online clothes retailer.

He also runs White Sparks promotions, based in Golden Square, Aberdeen. No date has been set for the start of the legal battle against GSK. A date for a case-management conference is expected to be set soon.

The court action comes as the UK Government announced plans for an inquiry into prescription and use of drugs like Seroxat