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Panorama
No surprise from the e-mails
Dr David Healy
Dr David Healy

Following Secrets of Seroxat, within hours Panorama was flooded with e-mails, phone calls and other correspondence.

Some of this got passed to me for input. In addition, over the weeks that followed I had a great increase in the numbers of e-mails and letters coming directly to me.

Many of these related to Seroxat but others asked whether other SSRIs, such as Sertraline (Lustral), could also cause the problems linked to Seroxat and Prozac.

One of the dominant notes across correspondences was relief at finding that what had been happening to the correspondent had happened to others. This relief was to be welcomed.

Quicksand

But it also gave me mixed feelings as I'm sure it did for others who've been involved in this story for years.

Mixed for two reasons. First, there was the fact that I'd been hearing essentially similar stories for 12 years now and against that background the fact that people had been as isolated in their suffering as they have been seems unconscionable.

Second because some people, who were now recognising dependence and withdrawal from Seroxat for the problems that they were, clearly expected that the simple recognition of these problems would mean that some expert would be able to help them out of the quicksand they were caught in.

The trouble is that there is no expert able to help some people out of these quicksands and we would have been much better placed had Glaxo SmithKline and others 20 years ago pursued further the efforts they had begun to map out the nature of withdrawal problems from Seroxat.

Suicide

What seems needed now is a forum sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline

Dr David Healy

What seems needed now is a forum sponsored by Glaxo SmithKline where doctors faced with patients faced with these problems can begin to realise that they the doctors are not on their own and that maybe through their collective efforts they can come up with insights on how best to handle the problems.

Out of the Panorama programme also came an involvement in a number of inquests. Alerted by the programme, following the deaths of loved ones, people have raised the issue at inquest and in some cases have sought to revisit earlier inquests that returned verdicts of suicide.

Under the terms of the law that governs what they do, coroners should be convinced that the person had intended to take their own life before returning a verdict of suicide. In the case of a death that occurs during an intoxication with LSD they will therefore often not return a verdict of suicide.

The same applies to deaths during the first few weeks of treatment with Seroxat, Prozac, Lustral, Cipramil, Cipralex and other SSRIs.

Question

Almost the only motive from the point of view of the families faced with the problem, who have come to me, has been that they do not want a label of suicide when it just does not seem to fit a husband, wife, child or parent whom they are convinced would not or at least on this occasion did not intend to commit suicide in the usual meaning of those words.

They don't want the original injury caused by the drug to be compounded with a second injury to the person's reputation.

But there are other issues at stake here. Many life assurance and other policies do not pay out following deaths by suicide.

This raises a question as to how many millions of pounds might have been lost by innocent families over the past 12 years as a result of such refusals, based on inquest verdicts of suicide, which the clinical trial evidence for SSRI drugs shows on the balance of probabilities should not have been suicide verdicts.

E-mails from the Edge sounds an all too appropriate title for a second programme on some of these issues.

Seroxat: E-mails from the edge

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