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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 05:06 GMT 06:06 UK
Anti-depressant doubts

Mark Hamilton
Mark says coming off Seroxat made him violent
For many sufferers of depression, the drug Seroxat has been a lifeline. It's been hailed as miracle cure for anxiety and even for shyness - and it's now the best-selling anti depressant in the UK

But doubts are beginning to surface about its effects on some patients - particularly when they try to come off the drug.

Taking Seroxat is increasingly being used as a defence for criminal behaviour. In one case, a man had charges dropped against him after claiming the drug turned him into a robber.

My personality changed so drastically I started to shop lift. I had violent thoughts towards other people - homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts.. All of this culminated in me robbing a local garage
Mark Hamilton

The drug has been linked to a number of suicides and is currently under review.

But its makers - the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline say that millions of patients around the world have taken it without suffering any ill-effects.

  • To investigate the doubts surrounding Seroxat, Breakfast's Luisa Baldini talked to Mark Hamilton, who claims that the drug turned him into a violent robber. Click here to go straight to a transcript of Luisa Baldini's report

  • Your comments We had hundreds of e-mails and text messages about Seroxat.

  • The Seroxat debate

    Dr Alastair Benbow
    Benbow: Seroxat doesn't cause aggression, but depression can
    We put the questions raised by Mark's case to Dr Alastair Benbow, The Head of European Clinical Psychiatry at the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

    We also talked to Andrew Isaacs of the Seroxat Users Group (you'll find a link for this group on the right hand side of this page).

    Dr Benbow, whose firm makes Seroxat, told us that he accepts the drug has some side effects, but the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.

    "Depression is a very serious condition, leading to 3,000 avoidable deaths every year."

    He added: "We saw here a case of potential violence and aggression "All the data suggests that actually Seroxat does not cause violence, whereas depression does.

    "Depression often manifests itself in men in particular with irritability and depression, whereas in women it's helplessness and hopelessness."

    The makers of Seroxat say that one in four patients will experience problems when coming off the drug - but it isn't addictive. If you do want to come off the drug, you should take it slowly

    "All people can get off by tapering gradually - working with the doctor to get off. And that's the same with all anti depressants and agents which work on the mind."

    The trouble with Seroxat: Breakfast's Luisa Baldini investigates

    It was hailed as a miracle cure for anxiety and shyness.

    But Seroxat has left thousands of people with a bitter after-taste.

    There can be severe side-effects.

    Its prescription's already been banned to under 18s when it was found they were more likely to harm themselves.

    And some say trying to withdraw from it is even worse.

    Thirty year-old Mark Hamilton was working and living in Oxford last year when he claims Seroxat turned him into a criminal.

    He says: "My personality changed so drastically I started to shop lift. I had violent thoughts towards other people - homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts.

    "On top of all this I was physically falling apart. All of this culminated in me robbing a local garage."

    Mark was facing up to eight years in prison when his case was suddenly dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

    It followed this medical report suggesting his behaviour could have been altered by trying to come off Seroxat.

    Pressed on whether he was just using this as an excuse, Mark says: "Violent is one thing I have never been - I've avoided violence all my life."

    There are other cases similar to Mark's.

    A woman in Scotland convicted of assault was spared a jail sentence after the judge told her:

    "you would not have done this if you had not been taking Seroxat...the behaviour of normally sensible people can become aggressive after taking the drug."

    In Wales a police officer had assault charges against him dropped.

    The claims are given some credence by the case of Donald Schell in the United States. He killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter after just 2 days on the drug. The government is reviewing Seroxat, looking specifically at potential withdrawal reactions, and reported suicidal behaviour. The findings are due before the end of the year.

    Have you had similar experiences with Seroxat or other forms of anti-depressants. Or has taking Seroxat saved your life? If you have a story to tell, let us know using this e-mail form

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    Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

    Seroxat doubts
    Luisa Baldini talks to one man who says Seroxat made him violent

    Seroxat: the Breakfast debate
    Dr Alastair Benbow from GlaxoSmithKline and Andrew Isaacs from the Seroxat Users' Group

    BBC Breakfast


    Father calls for tighter drug control
    11 Jun 03  |  Shropshire
    'Seroxat saved my life'
    30 May 03  |  Health


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