[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
'Seroxat saved my life'
Emma Wallace
Emma Wallace says the drug worked for her
The government's Committee on the Safety of Medicines has launched an inquiry into anti-depressant drugs such as Seroxat and Prozac following claims by patients that they had become hooked on the pills, or felt suicidal after taking them.

Health Minister Hazel Blears revealed last week that between 2000 and 2002, the Department of Health's Yellow Card scheme had received eight reports of suicides and more than 1,000 reports of adverse reactions among patients who had taken Seroxat.

However, the drug has been taken successfully by many thousands of people world-wide. BBC News Online's Jane Elliott spoke to one woman who believes the drug saved her life.

Emma Wallace is a bubbly, vivacious cellist.

She is newly-wed and has a lovely home and a job she adores with the London Symphony Orchestra.

To an impartial observer she looks to have the perfect life.

But scratch the surface and the hidden problems soon become apparent.


For until a year ago Emma was a chronic self-harmer. She needed hospital treatment three times after cutting herself deeply and her body still bears the scars.

She has contemplated suicide and told her family she was ready to die.

I have hideous scars where I used to cut myself with knives and razor blades.
Emma Wallace

Emma, 38, suffers from chronic insomnia and has spent most of life unable to sleep.

She is a depressive after being badly abused by a babysitter as a child.

But a year ago she found her salvation - the controversial antidepressant pill Seroxat. She and now wants to speak out because she feels that drug has received such a bad press that some people are not taking it.

The drug has been linked to withdrawal problems, suicide and self-harm.

But to Emma the drug has been a godsend.

"I was very low. I could not answer the telephone to anyone I could not even talk to family.

"I just had no confidence.

"I used to self harm. I have hideous scars where I used to cut myself with knives and razor blades. I started doing this when I was 11 and it continued until I was 28.


But then Emma was referred to the sleep disorders centre at St Thomas's Hospital, in South London.

Doctors established that she had very low levels of serotonin in her brain, the chemical that enhances mood and promotes sleep.

She was prescribed Seroxat to boost the serotonin levels and says she noticed a mood change immediately.

"Within three weeks of taking it I was feeling like a different person. I suddenly wanted to get out of bed.

"When I was playing the cello I used to think everyone was looking at me and waiting for me to make a mistake, but now I sit there and think that I am good at what I do.

"When the doctor asked me how I had found the drug I told him that for my whole life I had been living in a prison and that he had opened the gates.

"Nobody understood what it was like they couldn't see behind the great glittering career, the wonderful husband and the brilliant house."


She said that at first she had been reluctant to take the anti-depressants because of the stigma attached, but said that she was glad she had persevered.

"I feel people are missing the chance to change their lives. I was in a pretty bad way a couple of years ago and it has changed my life.

"Since I have taken Seroxat I have realised that I am this bubbly person that everybody loves. I have this chemical imbalance.

"I have always had it and I will always take Seroxat."

But others fear the influence of the drug.

A spokeswoman for the Seroxat Users Group said: "We acknowledge that treatment with Seroxat is beneficial to many patients.

"Unfortunately there are an unacceptable number of patients who are suffering because they have taken Seroxat, finding themselves addicted to the drug and not infrequently overcome by suicidal ideation, resulting in the loss of life.

"The Seroxat Users Group is deeply concerned about the safety of Seroxat and is calling on the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to withdraw any new prescriptions of Seroxat until the review into its safety is complete.

"World Health Organisation statistics show that Seroxat has more reports of withdrawal difficulties and adverse reactions than any other prescribed drug, with twice as many reports as the next highest drug. The benzodiazepine Valium ranks 13th.

"There is an urgent need for independent research into the long-term effects of Seroxat, special facilities equipped to assist patient's during withdrawal, and amendment of patient and prescriber information to reflect the dangers of treatment with Seroxat."

Maker's response

A spokesperson for GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the drug, said: "Depression is a potentially deadly disease and Seroxat is an effective treatment that since launch has helped tens of millions of patients worldwide lead fuller and more productive lives.

"The majority of people do not get side effects on either taking Seroxat or on stopping.

"But some people do and we have been advising patients and doctors on what to expect, when taking or stopping treatment for many years."

Anti-depressant safety reviewed
08 Jan 03  |  Health
Coroner's drug inquiry call
11 Mar 03  |  Wales
Ecstasy 'link to depression'
16 Mar 03  |  Health
20 Dec 00  |  Health


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific