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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October 2004, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
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The views expressed on these pages are not necessarily the views of the BBC. The e-mails published will be reflective of the balance of opinion received.


Medicines are definitely out of control in the UK and have been for more than 30 years
Graham Aldred
I would like to congratulate the Panorama team for their latest searching examination of the failure of drug safety regulation in the UK , with particular reference to the officially unacknowledged harm and dangers of Seroxat and the other common SSRIs.

Your series of programmes has provided the strongest indictment of the UK Medical Regulator, MHRA. Surely now there is enough evidence to embarrass the UK Government out of their denial into setting up an independent judicial enquiry into the responsibility of the MHRA and GSK for the "harm" caused by their inadequate and incompetent regulatory processes exposed so clearly by your programme .

Panorama have demonstrated that UK Medical Regulation is not safe or effective. The nation's medical safety should be too important to be left in the control of the present MHRA, with its close Pharma Industry links and 100% funding by Pharma, the very body that they are charged to strictly and robustly regulate, and of course with no routine government oversight.

The inadequacy and equivocation of the replies made by Prof. Breckenridge, head of MHRA and his failure to state a timetable for the possible legal action against GSK for their reluctance to disclose vital safety information over the last 12 years, provide yet more evidence that medicines are definitely out of control in the UK and have been for more than 30 years.

We can only hope that one day somebody will work out a way to calculate how many people have been on these drugs and then calculate the extent of the "harm" that has been done to so many innocent people, who took their drugs on trust. Many lives have been saved already by awareness provoked by Panorama. The heartbreak and harm that follows has been avoided for some. As a result of "Taken on Trust" more lives will be spared,

Panorama and the BBC deserve the greatest credit for effectively stepping in to cover for the failures of the UK regulator in their primary responsibility for patient safety and careful warning. Your programme has demonstrated the endemic flaws in MHRA culture in which every cautionary warning and safe regulatory step is resisted with an arrogance that does not flatter the medical profession. It is only through Panorama not the MHRA that millions of people and hundreds of doctors have been made aware of the actual dangers of SSRIs, particularly Seroxat.
Graham Aldred, UK

Reading some of the comments on this page has made me really angry. I started taking Seroxat about 7 years ago as I suffered awfully with panic attacks. It got so bad that I couldn't go out. I have never suffered with depression until I started to take Seroxat. Trying to get on and off of the drug does make you feel suicidal. This is nothing to do with my illness. The drug obviously helps some people, and some people are lucky enough not to experience these awful side effects. Well good for you is all I can say, but you could spare a thought for other people that are bedridden for 8 weeks just trying to hold it together and withdraw.
Janice Woodward, East Grinstead, UK

An interesting Panorama programme but maybe another point needed emphasis. A key to the understanding of side effects must be the yellow card system. I suspect that the yellow card system does not work at all. Last year my sister was at long last being taken off Seroxat. During a period of a few weeks my sister cried continually and expressed suicidal thoughts. She had never previously done so. I brought this to the attention of the medical team. They told me that on looking up information on Seroxat side effects there was no link between dosage reduction and suicidal thoughts. They were relying on published side effect information. Consequently I do not believe a yellow card would have been completed. Surely it is only by the completion of yellow cards that feedback can be provided to demonstrate side effect problems?
Andrew, Bristol, England

I really must thank the BBC in a big way for your previous programme on Seroxat. As a direct result I decided to come off the "non-addicitive" (my GP's words) drug taken as an appetite depressant. On the drug I was sliding into a deep depression, with excessive sweating. Your programme gave me the incentive I needed to stop taking them. Then I went through hell for 6 months. The withdrawal symptoms were so severe that I really would wish them on Glaxo, and particularly that obnoxious spokesman employed, undoubtedly for a large sum, by them. I am 56-years-old, so definitly fall into the adult category. My symptoms were: blinding migraine flashes, blurred vision and depression. Thank you BBC, keep up the good work. You may show this message to anyone you think might be interested.
Monika St.John-Lloyd, Spain

GPs in good faith prescribed it to people who should never have taken it
Catherine Annabel, Sheffield
Of course Seroxat has helped some people, and that's great. Of course some people can take it with benefit and come off it with ease. Great, I'm glad of that. But with any drug, the benefits that can be gained when it is prescribed appropriately can turn into major hazards to health when contraindications are ignored. In the case of Seroxat, significant contradications to do with age, dosage, and withdrawal, were hidden, deliberately it would appear, and therefore GPs in good faith prescribed it to people who should never have taken it, and prescribed it in dosages which should never have been given. That is the scandal.
Catherine Annabel, Sheffield

It's thanks to programs like That's life, Panorama, The Cook report, etc. people have been warned about the adverse effect of drugs, and the apparent disinterest by the drug companies and governments to look into why it is that for some people these drugs unbalance their minds to such an extent as to drive them to suicide or to harm others. I have come to the conclusion that a small percentage are sacrificed for the greater good i.e. To preserve profit margins and protect countries economies. For all our sakes don't give up. Well, done.
Raymond Lloyd, Birmingham, UK

It has become more and more apparent that manufacturers are only interested in wealth and not health.Thankyou for taking the MRHA to task and hopefully they will start to do their job and protect us from these greedy pharma companies. My late husband was prescribed Seroxat when he was very depressed after being diagnosed with a terminal neurological condition. Within two weeks he had broken my nose and tried to kill himself twice. It was only when he ended up being sectioned that he was taken off the drug by the psychiatrist at the hospital.
Sue Arthur, Newcastle upon Tyne

I want to congratulate you on your "Seroxat" investigation (broadcast 3/10/04). I am appalled at the way this has been handled by the MHRA - an agency who are supposed to protect the consumer. What faith can we have in this agency now? Well done to Panorama for informing us of this.
Sharron McLean, UK

Another piece of poorly thought through, sensationalist journalism. It is a great pity that Sir Alistair Breckenridge did not portray himself or the MHRA very well and push back more effectively on such a one-sided, unbalanced criticism of Seroxat.

The brain is a very complicated and poorly understood piece of physiology as is human behaviour in general. Some drugs work well for some people but poorly for others for reasons that can not be fully understood. The problem is that some people with depression take their own lives - it's a great shame and a horrible thing but that is just the way it is. This happens with people taking antidepressive medication too, whatever the particular medicine.

However, it would be naive and dangerous to say that Seroxat causes suicide any more than it would be to say that an antibiotic causes infection or a "heart drug" causes heart attacks - it is confounded by the background disease and that is the dilemma that the MHRA has.

The other side of the argument presents a few questions (which were suitably avoided in the Panorama programme): How many people have taken Seroxat and not committed suicide? How many people have taken Seroxat and it has prevented them committing suicide? How many people have not taken Seroxat but still committed suicide?

Until you can put these Seroxat suicides into context by addressing the above then you can not put the whole problem into any meaningful context.

Maybe Panorama would like to address one more question in a future programme - How many people committed suicide after they stopped taking their antidepressant medication following the Panorama programme (despite the token request not to at the end of the programme)? Believe me, it would be easy to 'wheel out' some evidence of this - the fact that it would be largely anecdotal should not be a problem since it did not stop the Panorama team with similar 'data'. The Yellow Card information from the voluntary side-effect reporting scheme is almost unusable for Seroxat because of the reporting bias that Panorama and other media has introduced with Seroxat.

However, there was some suggestion of unethical conduct and 'marketing-driven drug safety' information from GlaxoSmithKline - if this is the case then I hope they get all they deserve for the sake of all the other pharmaceutical companies and patient confidence. Also, if the old, archived data really exists in the MHRA and the conclusions are clear with respect to Seroxat and suicide, then the MHRA really has a lot to answer for too. I look forward to the results of the investigation.
Dave, Glasgow, UK

The really worrying thing was... the culture of spin, mendacity, information suppression and control
James, Hungerford
The really worrying thing about this documentary was that it showed how endemic the culture of "spin", mendacity, information suppression and control has become in every quango, official body and big business in this country. We desperately need a genuine freedom of information act that cuts right through commercial and political self-interest.
James, Hungerford, UK

Whilst I found this programme fascinating, I did feel there were a few flaws in the reporting. Firstly, the BNF (British National Formulary) which is the medical profession's bible on drugs in the 1999 edition states that there are many side effects of SSRIs including those illustrated in your programme. It also states that abrupt withdrawal should be avoided, which to me says there is an addictive element. It further goes on to state that suicidal ideation has been linked with some SSRIs. So if it was the "big secret" you made it out to be, how on earth was this information in the BNF? It also states clearly that this group of drugs are not recommended for use in the treatment of children.

I would also like to confirm that venlafaxine is not an SSRI but an SNRI and would suggest that you please make sure that all information given is accurate before driving panic into the heart of already psychologically distressed people. I do however feel that anti-depressants are sometimes dished out as a quick fix method by doctors, when it actual fact other methods such as counselling and physological intervention would be more appropriate - but that is a totally different debate altogether!
Jane Rookes, Gillingham, Kent

I am very glad to see that so many people share my point of view i.e. that Seroxat is a beneficial drug for many people. This programme was a piece of one-sided journalism and as such failed to make its point successfully. I would echo the comments of some contributors when they deplore such journalistic standards in what purports to be the BBC's flagship documentary.
Jane Smith, Edinburgh

I work as a CPN using these types of medications all the time. My concerns are GPss prescribing out of licence. Surely they should be referring on to secondary specialist services. I am also concerned about the high number of young people being labelled as depressed. Kids do not have fully functional emotional control, but have to learn coping mechanisms for everyday life events, not just handed a packet of pills, again another reason for specialist services to be contacted.
Paula Cochrane, Dumfries, Scotland

I must write to thank Shelley Jofre on doing such a good job on last night's program. This to me is reporting at its best. I must applaud her tenacity on this subject especially getting to the real specifics of the case and showing just how the regulatory body are not doing their jobs. Surely answering every question with "we are investigating this" shows him out to be at best uncaring and incompetent.

Is there a way of getting this man replaced ? He should be made accountable for his boards decisions to let these drugs loose on the populace. I was involved with a group (CCHR) investigating the side effects of prozac when it first hit the country some years ago. We observed similar findings as has been exposed with Seroxat. Long may you continue to expose these kinds of issues.
Dave Marris, UK

Panorama has highlighted these issues many times. Very little change has resulted. The regulation and information regarding these drugs is totally inadequate. But is the lack of real change surprising when GlaxoSmithKline made an astonishing 6,920,000,000 trading profit last year? Who can challenge a company with that sort of clout!
Steve, England

I have viewed with interest tonight's programme. As a psychiatric professional myself I have followed the debate about the potentially negative effects a person on paroxetene may be exposed to. I believe that any such concerns should be thoroughly investigated.

I was equally concerned that at no time during the programme was the proportion of the people using paroxetene who suffered such negative effects stated. This would surely have helped us reach an opinion on an overall scale of the problem.

Even if the proportion turns out to be low, it is obviously the case that measures should be in place to minimize such problems.

However, unless we know what the true scale of the problem is, we might also be forgetting people who benefitted from the medication. The end result could be that instead of minimizing the serious problems outlined, we might also end up denying benefit to people who would have otherwise taken from the same drug.

The programme did, in my view, highlight problems arising from scrutiny by the regulatory agency. I believe all data should be available to them without question.
A Galea, Eastbourne

The people that cannot comprehend what the programme is showing are arrogant and ignorant
Debbie Simpson, Gateshead
I am sick of people who slag off the BBC for showing this as a one sided show, I'm really pleased that paroxatine worked for you. But you are being really selfish, the programme is actually showing how bad they are for some people. I suffer on these tablets and tried suicide a few times. I think the people that cannot comprehend what the programme is showing are arrogant and ignorant as it is a case of I'm alright so why bother about other people.
Debbie Simpson, Gateshead

I have been on Seroxat for the best part of six years now following depression and anxiety and found them extremely effective. I have not encountered any of the side effects mentioned on tonight's programme or in the patient information sheet. I was lucky enough to be able to afford private counselling at the City of London University (when living in London) and since moving to Hampshire have similar counselling locally. I feel more confident as a person now and am in the process of decreasing the 40mg a day I take - to 20mg with no adverse effects. As good as the programme was, I think it is scaremongering. Seroxat worked for me.
Charles Holroyd, Havant, Hampshire

There is nothing wrong with Seroxat, only the way it is prescribed and taken. I was on 60mg per day for OCD. I was under hospital supervision. I had both my doctor's support and my psychologist's. I was told that I would feel worse at first but Seroxat really helped me. I now no longer have OCD. I feel that if it is correctly monitered and supervised it is a really benificial drug. I had no ill effects whatsoever coming off Seroxat.
Elaine Taylor, UK

I was under the impression that Venlafaxine/Effexor is in fact not an SSRI but is an SNRI. Just one example of how the programme was ill-informed and biased.
Steve, UK

I have just watched the third series of Panorama addressing the very serious problems of patients taking Seroxat. I commend the production team for an excellent and balanced view that has hitherto been kept secret by GSKB.

I am Sarah Venn's father and I cried when watching the programme. I felt for the families of those who have lost loved ones. I have nursed and watched my daughter attempt to withdraw from Seroxat only to be there when she failed after 12 months of effort that you or I would have given up after one week. GSKB have only one interest - to make money.

Dr Benbow is a highly paid executive of GSK who only cares about his wealth, not the interests of the public who are prescribed the drugs the company he works for make. I was appalled to listen to Prof Sir Alasdair justify his position in not controlling the drugs agency. For me he should be sacked, not allowed to resign, and his knighthood taken away. I am a saddened father but thankful to your programme for bringing this very important topic to the attention of the people.
Ernest Venn, England

After watching your recent programme on 'Taken on trust', I have a question regarding this issue. I would just like to know where the MHRA receives its funding from?
Mark, England

What I found really disturbing during the programme - the regulators changed the information in the patient information leaflet - this would be fine for new users reading this for the first time - however, the long term users who had probably read the information when getting their very first prescription would not have realised the information had changed, perhaps a separate leaflet to the dosage etc., just outlining warnings and contraindications printed in red would be more useful, or indeed one of these leaflets handed out by the GP to the patient at the same time as the prescription.
Margaret, London

The regulatory body in the UK feels under pressure from the drug companies to licence their products
Allan Harrison, Newcastle
Firstly I would like to compliment you on an excellent programme. As a nurse working in the NHS time after time I have seen anti-depressants used to treat psychological problems in patients where more basic methods would have been more appropriate i.e. psychotherapy/counselling/cognitive therapy/coping mechanisms etc...

However the problems of safety highlighted by your programme are not limited to this class of medication. The speed at which drugs to treat HIV are licensed has increased dramatically in the 11 years I have been working with people having this condition and my personal opinion is that the regulatory body in the UK feels under pressure from the drug companies to licence their products with minimal clinical trial data following FDA approval. Having been involved in numerous drug trials and making use of the side effect reporting schemes in place I am unaware of any follow up from the MHRA/MCA on any reports we filed, although this may have been undertaken with the prescribing Consultant.

It is good to know that programmes like Panorama are undertaking this research and continuing to keep the public informed of such serious issues.
Allan Harrison, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

I have been taking Seroxat for depression since 1992. I found that rather than making me suicidal, it made my suicidal tendencies diminish quite a bit. It helps some individuals and there are others who do not get any positive benefit, and a small minority who have an adverse reaction.

I think we have to take a measured view, which was certainly not given in this particular Panorama programme, as it only highlighted the problems with Seroxat and the worrying complacancy of the drug company and the MHRA, which is a cause for concern for all so-called licensed drugs. This could be only the tip of the iceberg.
Susan Carberry, London, England

Once again we have another scaremongering documentary which has probably been chosen in an attempt to boost ratings to a public sick of being subjected to another round of tired repeated sitcoms, enough to drive anyone to depression. I have taken Seroxat or Paroxatine as it is now called on two seperate occassions for about a year each and I found it extremely helpful in helping me to cope with depression and anxiety and still get on with everyday life. I never ever had suicidal thoughts and I never became addicted. When the time came to stop my doctor gradually phased the medication out by dropping one pill a week and I never really noticed coming off it.

Have you never thought that suicidal thoughts are one of the symptoms of depression and that people do committ suicide when depressed. However, thankfully they are in the minority and I believe a lot of people like myself have benefited from taking this drug. I do feel for people taking Seroxat watching your programme as it's bad enough suffering from depression without some glib journalist telling them that the very thing they're taking to make them feel better could be potentially fatal. You need to look at the facts, count how many people in the world have taken this drug and have been helped and I think you'll find it far outweighs the statistics of the unfortunate suicides and addicts which clearly is, in a lot of people, a seperate issue.
Andrew Moore, London, UK

Wonderful programme. The presenter deserves special praise. She was terrific! Keep the pressure on this regulator. She made him look as if he was lying and with an inferior knowledge of the subject to her.
Tom McKay, Glasgow, Scotland

Medical professionals, drug companies... need to listen to one group above all others - patients
Ramsay Ure, Edinburgh
There is a very simple message to be learned from tonight's programme. Medical professionals, drug companies and associated regulatory bodies need to listen to one group above all others - patients. Given my own horrendous experiences, I do not believe for a minute that it is only Seroxat which may cause or exacerbate a patient's desire to attempt suicide.

I have never taken Seroxat itself, but many other drugs from all classes of licensed anti-depressants have had this effect upon me. It's time to put patients before profit. The endemic arrogance within the medical profession and its unholy alliance with drug companies - I feel lucky to be alive.
Ramsay Ure, Edinburgh

A disturbing report if one ponders its wider implications. In particular your comment that "if drug company trials are not favourable then they are under no obligation to publish the results" - what does this imply for the supposed investigations into the safety of MMR? Keep up the good work. The public needs you.
Sandra Lloyd-Williams, Cardiff, Wales

I've tried coming off it twice and experience electric shocks and a strange timeslip sensation
Dave Collins, Bristol
Well done Panorama. I'm 34 and have been on Seroxat for 4 years for depression. At the time I was assured by my GP it wasn't addictive despite me questioning him about the scare stories I had read on the internet. I've since tried coming off it twice and experience electric shocks and a strange timeslip sensation. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. We've all been lied to.
Dave Collins, Bristol, England

I was prescribed Seroxat in 1999 as I was unable to sleep. I was told that there were no side effects and that this drug had been proven as a "non-addictive medication". I stopped taking the drug as I found out I was expecting my third child. The side effects were dreadful - panic attacks and severe dizziness and I was unable to sleep. I had terrible thoughts of ending my life. It took me four months to stop taking the drug but I feel the side effects are still with me now. I never got over the depression, sleeplessness and panic attacks just to name a few. Seroxat changed my life forever...not for the better.
Joanne Allsopp, London

With the costs of R&D spiralling ever higher, there is pressure on pharmaceutical companies to merge into ever larger corporations to cover those costs. We will get to a time when there are only a few huge companies wielding too great a power over drug trials and subsequent release. It will get worse.
Chris Hanscomb, Amersham

I see that once again you're banging on about how dangerous Seroxat is. I was on Seroxat for two years. If I hadn't started taking Seroxat, I would probably be dead now: because I really really really wanted to die. Sometimes people taking Seroxat (or any other anti-depressant) kill themselves. Well here's a huge news flash: "Depressed people kill themselves".

Did you ever consider that maybe people kill themselves because they start to take the anti-depressants too late? Did you ever consider that, in the litigious society that we now live in, people will try to blame anyone for the death of their loved ones, rather than just accept that people sometimes die?

I just get so angry when you tear apart the thing that saved my life
Jeb, UK
Depression is a horrible thing (if you've never suffered from it you will never comprehend just how horrible), and the hardest part is admitting to yourself that you need help in the first place. Now people won't want to get help because they will be convinced that the treatment will kill them. Well done - you just made it harder, but hey, nevermind, at least you got some good ratings.

It is true that when you stop taking Seroxat you feel a bit strange (shaking, adrenaline rushes, flashes, etc.). This is the same as if you stop smoking; or drinking coffee; or eating chocolate; or if you stop ingesting anything that your body has become accustomed to (whether chemically addictive or otherwise).

If you read the instructions for Seroxat then you can follow the steps to wean yourself off the tablets succesfully. I was on them for two years, I spent three months reducing the dose and then stopped taking them completely. That was over a year ago and I have never needed them since. I have never felt better. It was like I had been given a new life.

I just get so angry when you tear apart the thing that saved my life, the drug that may give other people the same chance that I had. Medicine will always be dangerous. There will always be people for whom it doesn't work. There will always be a risk; but there will also be a chance. Don't ruin it for everyone.
Jeb, UK

I am sat writing this e-mail in total disbelief and anger. I was prescribed Seroxat for stress. I was working as a line manager in a very busy call centre, and found I could not cope with the pressure of work and running a home. In the first few months of taking this tablet I had become a completely different person, crying, panic attacks and very suicidal. I am so angry and upset at the thought of all the times I drove around in my car looking for a wall to smash into, or holding packets of paracetemol wanting so much to take them. I had gone from a happy wife and mother of three children to a complete wreck. I was also told that these drugs were not addictive, but the withdrawals were terrible: pins and needles, feeling sick, and dizziness. After two years I am now recovered but dread to think of what could have happened. All relevant information should be given immediately to all concerned. It is a disgrace.
Dawn Dalton, Leeds, England

This was a very important programme, about a drug that is given to thousands of people in this country, and the real dangers it poses. Yet there was not one government comment ie minister who said that there would be an investigation into the practices of the Medicines Regulatory Authority.
Kevin Davey, London, England

I am still very annoyed with the lack of information I was originally given about this drug. I have been on Seroxat for two years and am scared of coming off the drug, because I have built up a true dependence on it. I have tried to come off the tablets, but the withdrawal sysptoms have been extreme! The GP's answer was to increase my dosage from 20 mg to 40mg. I truly believe that Seroxat has changed my life for the worst.
David Poole, Coventry, England

Either the regulators are extremely stupid and grossly incompentent, or they are in the pay of the drug companies. Either way, they want removing tomorrow. The Panorama team should send the whole lot to Scotland Yard for further investigation. Expect "someone" to complain to the standards authority over the contents of this programme. I bet you will be criticised!
S Granger, Birmingham, England

This programme has shown what a farce regulation of medicines is in the UK. The hold the Big Pharma has is akin to that of the mafia. In terms of SSRIs it isn't just Seroxat. Prozac made me suicidal after two weeks and Effexor was literally an "evil" drug which saw me addicted and having to be hospitalised for withdrawal with effects worse than that of heroin withdrawal but which lasted for a year and my depression continues and the self harm hasn't stopped. I'm "lucky" to be alive but it's no thanks to these drugs, or to my hapless psychiatrist who prescribed them "on trust" but then Yellow-Carded Effexor and had no follow up from the regulatory body. I hope the shareholders are enjoying their profits.
Lynn Harrison, Coventry, UK

I am so glad to see the truth is coming out about the drug Seroxat. My father committed suicide whilst taking this drug, and I wholly believe it to be responsible. The scary thing now is how many other drugs are being prescribed to us that have not been properly regulated and how can we trust the medicine we're taking?
Sylvianne Crane, Southampton

While I think you have made some important points, especially around the use of Seroxat in children, I am concerned that your programmme gives an overall view of Seroxat as a "bad" drug. Whilst I respect your reporting, it is quite one sided. Seroxat has been incredibly positive for me - I have taken it for over two years, and it has effected a wonderful change for me, overcoming an overwhelming anxiety. I have had no thoughts of suicide or violence and it concerns me that your report does not look at how many people have been helped by this drug.
Matt, Thatcham, UK

I went through 18 months of hell, as a direct result of the Panarama report
Jonathan Tenniel, London
I feel that tonight's programme failed to stress the benefits which Seroxat provide to many people. I was taking Seroxat for five years from 1997 to 2002, and they helped me considerably. However, after the first Panarama programme on this issue, my doctor became concerned, and changed my prescription. I then went through 18 months of hell, as a direct result of the Panarama report. No other medication worked for me, and I suffered horrible side effects, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety and nausia.

Eventually I demanded that he put me back on Seroxat, and I feel 1,000 times better. All medications have side effects, and do not suit all people, for goodness sake peanuts, asprin and wasp stings can kill some people. It is true that there should have been better warnings, however, it should not be denied that Seroxat is a wonderful medication which improves many people's lives.
Jonathan Tenniel, London, UK

Thank you so much for your programme and confirming everything that I have been saying for the past seven years while taking Seroxat. No one has been listening to me so far, but hopefully your programme will help to open the eyes of all medical regulators and everyone in the medical profession. Thank you once again.
Renata Misic, London

I am convinced that your reporting of this issue has saved many lives
Roger Look, Solihull
Excellent programme. As implied the problem is far more wide-reaching than just one of Seroxat or even anti-depressants but raises huge questions about the whole prescribing of psychotropic medication. One aspect that wasn't explored in the programme was the vast implications for prescribing of psychotropic medication to people with learning disabilities. Prescribing rates amongst this part of the population are extremely high, and this to people who, through their communication disabilities, are unable to report side-effects. I believe that this topic would make an excellent issue for Panorama to investigate (although again you are likely to come up against a psychiatric stone wall). I am convinced that your reporting of this issue has saved many lives and I hope you will continue your reporting on this vital topic.
Roger Look, Solihull, England

I was prescribed Seroxat for depression and only took it after carefully reading the advice that "you cannot become addicted to Seroxat" on the patient leaflet. After about a year I had sorted out the root cause of my depression, but then found that I was unable to stop taking the Seroxat without very real physical withdrawal symptoms. After much trial and error I eventually got off the drug by shaving tiny amounts off the pills. This enabled me to reduce my dose very gradually and extremely slowly, and it meant I could step down by small fractions of a milligram. The process eventually took a further 8 months. Anyone trying to get off this drug has my utmost sympathy and I hope this may be of help.
Jon Stewart, Brighton, England

I was appalled at the complacency of the regulator. The regulatory body appears to be nothing more than an extension of the drug companies and they have been shown to only have concern for their own profits. The drug companies are con men of the worst order and the worse for continuing to pretend that they have our best interests at heart. I am deeply shocked at what this programme has revealed and find myself unable to trust anything that my doctor may feel inclined to prescribe; not because he is a bad doctor but because he is not given honest information and because nothing is done if he reports negative results.
David Sandilands, Bristol

I have just watched the Panorama programme on Seroxat - admittedly missed the first few minutes, saw from the section on Seroxat and children. I thought the programme was unbalanced with the presenter asking many closed or leading questions. There were no responses from patients (or the families of patients) who had taken Seroxat and returned to good mental health.

I am writing this comment as a member of the public who has taken Seroxat 20mg for periods of approximately a year for depression and recovered my mental health with no adverse effects or withdrawal symptoms. Before taking Seroxat and while ill I had on some occasions experienced suicidal feelings, and given the findings of the programme might have been expected to have been one of the patients to have found Seroxat dangerous but this has not been the case.

I do think that drug companies have too much money and power but I feel it is only fair that the case is made that Seroxat, and other antidepressants like Prozac and Cipramil, have helped people suffering from depression. This includes myself, my twin sister and my best friend.
Christine McConnell, Bellshill, Scotland

What a fantastic, trenchant piece of reporting. No wonder that callow cretin from GSK wouldn't show his face. This is what public service broadcasting is all about. Individuals like Richard Brooke, Charles Medawar and David Healy deserve our support and respect. They have been nothing short of heroic in many ways. Healy especially has been impugned and slandered for telling the truth, and should be applauded for his bravery and honesty. If all people in medicine had his integrity there would not be the crisis in belief which now exists in the profession.
David Swann, Stockport, UK

Following the disclosures made in Panorama regarding the failures of the MHRA to protect the public I would hope that Professor Sir Alastair Breckenridge will have the decency to resign. His performance during the interview was astonishing, especially when confronted by evidence which very clearly contradicted his stance. His outrageous comment regarding patients' responsibilities in deciding whether to accept treatment by Seroxat were particularly shameful. I will be contacting my MP to raise this matter in parliament.
James Poole Ferns, Lennoxtown, Scotland

I think the drug should be banned after watching your programme and a full internal investigation into the regulators for this country. I am disgusted that a regulator with such power over one of the most fundamental issues of the human race - namely our well-being and health is so un-regulated. This needs to be addressed at the highest government levels.
Mark Coulthurst, UK

There are also sucess stories like myself
Carly, Dartmouth
I'm on Seroxat and I know the bad sides have to be highlighted but there are also sucess stories like myself. I haven't had any of the side effects that this medication has connected with it. I'm very happy on them and I've no problems with taking them. It has to be highlighted as well that there is good as well as the bad. I understand the bad has to be known but so does the good.
Carly, Dartmouth, Devon

I have been off Fluoxatine for nearly two years and am still suffering from zaps in the head. I also get judders in the head in which I feel like I am having a stroke. I have been assured that this will go away in time but it's been nearly two years already and I was only on the tablets for eight weeks at the most.
Michelle Hardy, Gravesend,Kent

Well done on another superb piece of journalism. The subject of the dangers of psychiatric medication and the ethics of drug manufacturers and the regulators is one that needs to be expanded everywhere. Thank you for helping get the truth out there.
Michael Westen, England

I've taken several SSRIs prescribed for panic attacks which all had adverse effects. I think you've opened a hornet's nest - the reason - there are so many "depressed" people in the country, that you can't cure with a pill. So the drug companies make a fortune pumping out drugs whose effect isn't actually proven and the people who are taking them are in no state to make a subjective assessment of the effects.
John Amy, Bromley, Kent

I attempted suicide twice, despite not having tendencies previously... I cannot understand why this medication is still being prescribed
John
I was prescribed Seroxat two years ago for a depressive illness. In the time I was taking the medication I attempted suicide twice, despite not having tendencies previously. In order to change to a less harmful medication I was forced to admit myself to a psychiatric unit where I could be monitored 24 hours a day for a 3 week period. I cannot understand why this medication is still being prescribed and was horrified, a few weeks ago, when it was suggested that I give it another try. Is there that much profit in it?
John, United Kingdom

The implications of Paroxetine presented in your program tonight are really worrying. My personal case is that Seroxat has helped me and is relieving my anxiety. I could not go on without it. I never had suicidal attempts and I am sure there are more people who believe for personal experience the drug is safe. Nevertheless all the investigations and trials made with this drug should be considered very seriously and information hidden away from doctors and patients should be punished.
Carlos, United Kingdom

What an excellent informative look at the anti-depressant drug scandal. Many thanks.
Kevin Bailey, England

The most shocking thing about this programme was neither the reported side-effects of the drug nor the claims that the regulating bodies had failed to act on reports of the same, but that it set out single-mindledly to prove its prejudiced preconceptions and displayed a standard of investigative journalism to which the Panorama of old would never have stooped. I really am shocked that if Panorama's axe-grinders succeed in reducing access to one of the few successful treatments for severe depression, the number of suicides caused because people have one less effective relief for their symptoms will massively outstrip those whose link to Paroxetine's alleged suicidal ideation is tenuous at best. Will we ever see their story, where Panorama conducts an investigation on their behalf into the damage it has wreaked itself by its continuous crusade against psychiatric treatment? Somehow I doubt it.
Chris, Oxford

This programme was on a serious subject. Why did you not mention, about the male subject of your programme, that he self-medicated three times his normal dose of Seroxat? It was not until 45 mins into the programme that you revealed the subject had taken three times his prescribed dose, after which he committed suicide. This is even though you first mentioned the sad case of this subject very much earlier in the programme. It is most disappointing that in a programme of such importance you found it necessary to "colour" the impression by holding this information until so late in the programme!
Nigel Andrews, Worthing, United Kingdom

When will you be broadcasting a programme interviewing some of the 1000's of people Seroxat has helped
Stuart Bailey, Colchester
When will you be broadcasting a programme interviewing some of the 1000's of people Seroxat has helped and improved their lives. I started on Seroxat and transferred to Eflexor as being more suitable for me. Prior to treatment I had no life. Slowly after three years I am joining the normal world. I am no longer a cabbage. You have not shown a balanced view. Today several people were killed by motor cars, when will you campaign for their ban?
Stuart Bailey, Colchester

Well what a surprise. Pharma companies aren't the saviours that people, including some medics, would like to believe. I left the industry six years ago having become increasingly frustrated and annoyed at the tactics used by both individual companies and also by the governing body of the industry, the ABPI.

I remember clearly talking with my own GP. He had been extremely helpful in giving me general assistance/information when I'd indicated that I was looking to get a position within pharmaceutical sales. Looking back, I should have read the warning signs. When I got my first position, I made a point of thanking my GP for his help, and commented that I was really looking forward to working in an ethical market. My doctor simply laughed and shook his head.

The ABPI has a code of conduct, drawn up primarily in an attempt to promote ethical selling. From my own experience neither the industry nor it's customers have a great deal of interest in doing business within those guidelines. The ABPI sets out the rules, but in order to reach the objectives that you are set, you have no choice but to operate outside of these rules, and regional/senior management turn a blind eye. Their attitude is if I don't ask questions or look too deeply, then it's not happening. If someone gets caught breaking these rules, then management feign surprise and refer the offender to the code of conduct, pleading ignorance of the fact that you have been operating without of the regulations.

On the subject of clinical trials, let's not forget why a company wants clinical evidence. If you can show that a drug works well, then more doctors are going to prescribe the tablets. I believe that the companies should be able to fund this research. Where I have a problem is when a company then owns that research. The intellectual property must remain in the ownership of the person doing the trial.

Unfortunately, as a nation we are not entitled to have drugs marketed to us. (This is one of the regulations regarding the promotion of medicines). If this was not the case, the first thing to look for is the clinical evidence. The data has to have been published and peer reviewed. Any drug that relies on 'data on file' should be treated with extreme caution. Data on file isn't open to scrutiny, and in a lot of cases the evidence put forward is shaky to say the least.

My final comment is, who pays for the ABPI? It's funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Do turkeys vote for Christmas?
exiledimp, UK

I feel I have been robbed of my wife, life and marriage
Peter Fisher, Worcester
I believe that the drug you are talking about on tonight's programme has changed my wife's personality - she is now aggressive, different to the person I married. The change happened within days of starting the drugs - the GP started with one a day and increased with a few weeks to 3 a day. We are now separated, my daughter, my sister, her parents and my parents have noticed a change. I feel I have been robbed of my wife, life and marriage.
Peter Fisher, Worcester, Worcestershire

I was given these tablets approximately three years ago. I tried to commit suicide after only three days. I never got a chance to see the original programme and I'm disgusted in what I have learned tonight. What gives these people the right to play with our lives like they do? They should all take them to see how it feels. I want to know who is looking at the people who are looking out for us?
Michael Newton, Doncaster

Prof Breckenridge's comments are absurd - Seroxat has a dramatic and immediate effect on patients - I took it 2 years ago aged 33. I I had severe suicidal thoughts (and remember saying to my husband don't be surprised if you find me hanging from the beams tonight) and also attacked my husband giving him a bloody nose within 3-4 weeks of taking the drug, I am pleased to say I did get better and I'm fine now. On balance I think the drug is beneficial - but must carry a warning to patients and closer scrutiny should be provided by GPs when administering the drug. I would even consider admitting some people for monitoring for a few days - but of course there is a cost implication here. I think it appalling that this Prof has the audacity to come on to prime time TV and blatantly lie.
Nicola Hartley, Kempsford, UK

I would like to come off them but I am frightened to
Deborah Dalton
I have been taking Seroxat for 5 years. I was told the tablets were not addictive but I can not stop taking them because the withdrawal effects are truly awful. I would like to come off them but I am frightened to. I really go to pieces rapidly and find life hard to deal with.
Deborah Dalton, England

I have taken Seroxat and can honestly say it was a life saver for me
Jackie Denton

I have taken Seroxat and can honestly say it was a life saver for me. You seem to have presented a very biased view. All the negative comments have come about in the very early stages, I was told by my doctor that it would take at least 6 weeks for the drug to kick in. You seem to have forgotten that these people taking this drug are perhaps not quite as balanced as they should be, me included. I can say "Thank God for Seroxat, it has saved my life."
Jackie Denton, England

I found that Seroxat suited me better than Prozac, but Cipramil suited me better still. I was much, much worse when I was on Prozac. I was extremely unpleasant to know, and seriously considered suicide several times whilst on it. My marriage was seriously at risk. I am 45 and male. I was 40 while I was on Prozac.

I found that information on the side-effects when coming off SSRIs was completely lacking. There was nothing about the migraine which appears when coming off. I also suffered from tremor while on SSRIs (Prozac, Cipramil and Seroxat) which does not appear in the information leaflet, but my brother-in-law (an experienced psychiatric nurse) informed me was common in his experience.
Ian Bromelow, UK

Poor reporting. Desist from adopting an aggressive stance while the finding of the report is under investigation. Is it fair to ask the parents of the deceased teenager - would things have been different had he not taken the drug. "Vindicated...?"
Shalini, UK

One thing that surprises me is that if a drug isn't licensed for use on children, why is it being prescribed to children at all - surely this cannot be legal? Should the manufacturers have made information available on safety issues with the drug and children?

Why, the drug isn't licensed for use with children - the only valid information should be that which refers to adults. Yes, the use in young adults is a serious issue. The use of the drug with children is a non-issue as it isn't licensed for use with children - therefore surely it is illegal to prescribe the drug to children.

The major drugs manufacturers aren't overly trusted by the general public as it is, but this programme actually brings into question whether we should actually trust the doctors who prescribe the drugs to us.
Jon Lawrence, UK

Anti-depressant drugs have long been suspect. In the light of the information shown on this programme, how many other drugs are unsafe or unreliable? How much more information is being sat on to save the profits of the drug manufacturers?
Sally Todd, Cleethorpes, north-east Lincs

Having been diagnosed with severe depression in 1998, my first anti-depressant was Seroxat. I hallucinated. Death was welcomed and if truth be told with the benefit of hindsight this drug is potentially lethal. It tipped me over the edge. 10 different loony potions later Lustral is my fiend. I sight Seroxat as the catalyst that started the downward spiral. GPs take note.
Jon Wild, England

I've been a huge advocate of Panorama in the past but am now bored beyond words at your constant programmes and exposes on Seroxat. Are there no other burning issues that warrant investigation and discussion? I feel as if I'm watching a repeat and listening to a broken record. I don't doubt that this is an important issue but it's beginning to appear you have a vendetta against the manufacturers. Come on you can do better and your loyal viewers certainly deserve better.
Sadie, UK

Anti-depressants are given without enough supervision. Depressed people are not normally able to take on board the side effects etc in their hour of desperation.
Maeve Baker, Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire



SEE ALSO
Taken on trust
21 Sep 04 |  Panorama
Q&A: Medicines regulation
03 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Information and helplines
01 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Self harm and stress groups
01 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Useful websites
03 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Panorama's two year journey
03 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Why we needed to regulate
03 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Seroxat and Panorama: Timeline
03 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Seroxat: The viewers stories
03 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Seven years of struggle
03 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Lancet paper on SSRI's
10 Oct 04 |  Panorama

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