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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 18:44 GMT
Coroner's drug inquiry call
Seroxat is a common anti-depressant
A coroner is calling for an inquiry into the widely-prescribed anti-depressant drug Seroxat.

Powys coroner Geraint Williams has written to the UK Health Secretary to ask for an urgent inquiry and for the drug to be withdrawn from use.

It follows the death of a man from Brecon who killed himself two weeks after being prescribed the drug for anxiety - the coroner recorded an open verdict on Tuesday.

Four hundred people from Wales are currently taking part in a legal campaign urging the government to investigate the drug.

Tuesday's inquest in Brecon heard retired head teacher Colin Whitfield slit his wrists two weeks after he was prescribed Seroxat.

His wife told the court it was totally out of character and she believed his mind had been affected by the drug.

Coroner Mr Williams said he was profoundly disturbed by the effect Seroxat had had on Mr Whitfield.

Colin Whitfield
Colin Whitfield killed himself after being prescribed Seroxat

He accepted expert opinion that Seroxat could induce agitation and lead to people having suicidal thoughts

The inquiry heard that this was not accepted by the Department of Health nor the manufacturers.

GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Seroxat, said there was no valid scientific research or literature to say that the drug caused suicidal thoughts or acts.

The firm said it believed in the safety of Seroxat and vigorously defends its integrity.

'Risky drug'

Mr Whitfield's widow Kathryn said she hoped some action would follow the case.

"As a result of what the coroner said in court, I really hope that perhaps something big will come out of this," she said.

"I hope there will be restrictions on the drug's use because I do believe it to be a very risky drug," she added.

Cardiff lawyers Hugh James are representing 4,000 people across Britain - including many from Wales - who allege serious side-effects from the drug and want more studies and information.

Meanwhile, the coroner will now wait to see if the Department of Health will take any action following his calls.

BBC Wales' Melanie Doel
"Kathryn Whitfield said her husband's mind had been affected"

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