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Thursday, 23 July, 1998, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Shy? Try taking a pill
Acid house party
Seroxat could turn social wallflowers into party animals
Social wallflowers could be transformed into outgoing party animals with the help of a new drug.

SmithKline Beecham claims its anti-depression drug Seroxat, launched in the UK in 1992, has been shown in tests to cure 'social phobia'.

It has applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for a licence to use the drug, now prescribed for panic attacks, for people diagnosed as having acute shyness.

The media has climbed onto the Seroxat bandwagon, hailing it as the big new thing in social drugs after anti-impotence pill Viagra.

They say Seroxat will help shy people get to the point where they might need Viagra.

The downside is that Seroxat can reduce sexual drive and function.

Serotonin

The drug boosts the level of serotonin in the brain - the hormone which controls people's moods.

It is already a major success at treating depression and its sales have risen by 23% in the last year.

It now accounts for one quarter of US anti-depressant drug sales and it was the fastest selling anti-depressant drug in the UK in the mid-1990s. In 1996, UK sales grew by 50%.

But if it gets approval to be used to treat acute shyness, sales are likely to soar.

A spokesman for SmithKline Beecham said shyness was ' a serious condition' and that only those who had acute problems would be prescribed the drug by doctors.

"It would be used for the sort of people who would have to run out of a crowded room. The underlying problem is usually extreme anxiety," he said.

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