Serotonin – latest from the MHRA

When I started taking Seroxat in 1997, I wanted to know how this great new drug worked – it boosts the levels of serotonin in your brain and that’s what makes you stop feeling depressed I was told. It’s a simple chemical imbalance – and the leaflet that came with the tablets told me “Remember you can’t become addicted to Seroxat.”

In 2002 the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) still told us “these tablets are not addictive”, and that withdrawal problems “are not common and not a sign of addiction”.

“Remember you can’t become addicted to Seroxat.” had been dropped from the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) by 2003 when GSK said in it “Seroxat is one of a group of medicines called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and works by bringing the levels of serotonin back to normal.”

However by mid 2006 GSK told us in the PIL “It is not fully understood how Seroxat and other SSRIs work…”

Now in 2007 the MHRA tells us “A variety of factors can contribute to an individual’s predisposition to depression. Although it is believed that depression may be caused by a biochemical imbalance and it is recognised that serotonin plays a role in the development of depression it is considered that there is more than one final common pathway in the aetiology of depression, and we are not aware of an internationally agreed ‘proper chemical balance of serotonin in the brain’ that would prevent or reduce the likelihood of experiencing depression.
 
As you are aware the role of the MHRA is to license medicinal products and ensure that medicines and medical devices on the UK market work, and are acceptably safe. As the precise role that serotonin plays in depression is still subject to ongoing research we really are not best placed to provide you with a response on this particular issue.”

So, let me get this right – we’re not sure exactly how Seroxat works; we’re not sure what a normal level of serotonin in the brain is; we’re not even sure that serotonin actually has anything to do with causing (or curing) depression.

What is going on?

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