Hailed as a 'wonder drug' for millions, the anti-depressant Prozac,
and its British sister Seroxat, came under fierce attack on Monday in
The Guardian, following disclosure of research alleging that thousands
of patients are becoming hooked.
Dr David Healy, a leading psychologist and expert on anti-depressants,
discovered studies from the 1980s in archives that appeared to show
healthy volunteers suffering withdrawal symptoms. He claimed that the
then leading manufacturer of the SSRI (selective serontonin re-uptake
inhibitor) drug Seroxat, SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) had
failed to warn of the risks.
Monday's article was the latest of several Guardian items criticising
the drug in the past three weeks. Last week's US court order for gsk to
pay pounds 4.6m to a family of man who killed his wife and granddaughter
and then himself after taking Seroxat for two days, featured prominently
in Monday's story.
Healy's findings - The Guardian claimed - fuelled the allegation that
the SSRI family of drugs can cause severe side affects in patients, and
that the companies making the drugs were shielding the truth
But the story was flawed, according to gsk, which fielded 'a number' of
queries from journalists after The Guardian's story.
'Dr Healy offered no new data. Withdrawal and addiction are different
conditions that have to be examined separately to be understood,' said
gsk spokesman Alan Chandler.
He said that in April 2000, the European Committee for Proprietors of
Medicinal Products, and the Medicine Control Agency reviewed the safety
of SSRIs and concluded that the drugs did not cause dependency. He said
the lack of fresh data ensured The Guardian's story was not followed up
by any media reviewed by gsk the next day.
'Only a few of our 70 million users worldwide suffered withdrawal and we
fielded calls from journalists to clear up the confusion,' added
The story received a mixed reaction from other sources. Margaret
Edwards, strategy head at mental health charity SANE, said prescribing
doctors were responsible for advising patients about possible side
'Drug companies should report openly any findings. SANE believes such
damaging findings should not mean people are deprived of any new drugs
that might save their lives,' added Edwards.