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Panorama
Probe into anti-depressants
Seroxat
Seroxat will be one of the drugs featured in the inquiry
The government is launching a major inquiry into the safety of some of the most prescribed anti-depressants, including Seroxat.

An expert group of the Committee on Safety of Medicines is to be set up to look at the problems some patients have reported while taking selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include lSeroxat and Prozac.

And for the first time ever, the inquiry will take first hand reports from people who claim to have problems and investigate reports of suicidal behaviour.

The inquiry will be chaired by Professor Ian Weller, of the Royal Free and University College London Medical School.

Suicide

It is important that we listen to the views and understand the experiences of patients who have taken these popular antidepressants, including seroxat

Professor Alasdair Brecknbridge, MHRA

Professor Alasdair Brecknbridge, chair of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulation Agency (MHRA) said: "SSRIs have been kept under close review for five to six years.

"However, we are aware that there is interest among patients about withdrawal reactions, feelings of suicide and whether these are linked to SSRIs.

"It is important that we listen to the views and understand the experiences of patients who have taken these popular antidepressants, including seroxat, so patient reports are going to form an important part in the assessment of the safety of SSRI's.

Panorama has highlighted the problems that some Seroxat users have had with the anti-depressant over the course of two programmes, although the drug has helped millions of people around the world.

Expert

During these two investigations, users have reported reactions such as violent behaviour, head-shocks and suicidal feelings after taking Seroxat.

The first Panorama programme in October 2002, led to 67,000 calls to a BBC helpline and nearly 1,400 e-mails from viewers, many of them reporting similar reactions to taking the drug.

This response led to a medical paper being written by drug safety expert Charles Medawar of the group Social Audit, and his co-author Dr Andrew Herxheimer.

However, GlaxoSmithKline maintains that Seroxat is a safe and effective drug, saying that it has been used extensively around the world over the past ten years.

It adds that there has been no indication in studies that self harm or suicidal feelings are a feature of treatment with Seroxat or other SSRI medicines.

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