The Seroxat User Group had a meeting with The Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 29 November 2007 at 3.00p.m.
At the meeting were: Gordon Brown, his PA ; the MP for Huntingdon – Jonathan Djanogly and from the Seroxat User Group, Janice Simmons and Dr Paul Duckett
The Prime Minister said he was pleased to meet with the Seroxat User Group. It was our meeting and he was “there to listen”.
Janice introduced Dr Paul Ducket from Manchester University.
Janice then read from the following statement:
We have met with quite a few Health Ministers now and it would seem that we are
listened to but no changes take place. We have been waiting 5 months for the DoH to
inform us as to whether or not the commitments made to the SUG are going to be
honoured. We hope that you may be able to give us a more positive response.
Gordon Brown asked if we had received any reply from the DoH at all.
Janice said they did receive a reply but it was just a standard letter which did not
answer the points raised.
Gordon Brown said he was unable to intervene in this respect with his Ministers.
We are very concerned that is has been found that these drugs do have a withdrawal
syndrome which is greatly underestimated by the medical profession.
Many people have grave concerns regarding the safety of the drugs and strong links
have been made with suicide and heightened aggression. Many patients find
withdrawal symptoms unbearable and therefore are unable to withdraw from the
drugs. We have over 10,000 personal experiences that detail these problems. I think
you will agree this is a significant number.
The Health Select Committee Report of 2005 made certain recommendations which
have not yet been implemented. The main one concerning us is that it was
recommended that the MHRA should be made into an independent body. At the
moment it is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. We, and many others would like
to see a totally independent body with no attachments to the pharma industry. It
would seem that the MHRA has relied on information about Seroxat from GSK rather
than looking at the raw data which should surely be part of their job to protect the
general public. How can the MHRA act as impartial judge of whether or not a drug is
safe when members of the organization have past/present interests in GSK? This
surely amounts to double standards.
I believe the MHRA state there have been 198 suicides linked to Seroxat but we
believe there are many more that have been overlooked. One of the points raised with
Lord Hunt back in June this year was that Coroner’s are not sent information
regarding side effects/withdrawal from the drugs as GPs are. In May 2006 GSK sent
a letter to all health professionals stating that patients taking Seroxat were at 6 times
higher risk of suicide on the drug than off.
The new guidelines by NICE and the MHRA recommend that SSRIs should not be
used as firstline treatment for ‘mild depression’ but two thirds of prescriptions are
written for ‘mild depression’ and only one third for ‘severe depression.’
Gordon Brown stated ‘the new guidelines state that GPs should monitor patients
carefully when initially prescribed these drugs.’
Janice said ‘yes, that’s true, but do they know what they are monitoring for?’
Gordon Brown then stated ‘you are obviously concerned about the way the drugs are
prescribed – have you written to the BMA regarding this?
Janice said ‘no we haven’t but we will consider doing so.’
Gordon Brown said ‘I will write to the BMA on your behalf requesting an
appointment to discuss this.’
What can be done to instruct more rigorous info/warnings to GPs and health
professionals considering that some have never heard of the MHRA or the Yellow
In 2003 the RAC made recommendations to the DoH and the MHRA that more
research was required into driving whilst taking SSRIs but the only research papers on
this have been pharmaceutical company funded and therefore cannot be seen to be
We are being contacted by a vast amount of people seeking help as the public are
becoming more aware that there is a potential problem with the drug. This is a similar
situation that occurred with benzodiazepines a few years back. The drug had been on
the market for 13 years before it was found to be addictive.
Why did GSK remove the statement ‘this drug is not addictive’ from the PIL for
Seroxat in 2003? We were told by GSK that is was removed because the general
public did not understand it. They used to state that 1 in 100 people may experience
withdrawal symptoms but that has been changed to 1 in 4.
I am sure you are aware that GSK are being investigated for withholding information
regarding seroxat being dangerous for children in that it caused self harm/suicide,
which led to the drug being banned for under 18’s in 2003.
Can you please tell us why the MHRA are holding this investigation and why it has
not been passed to the CPS? Why it has been 4 years since the investigation was
instigated and still no conclusion?
We have in our possession a letter from SmithKline Beecham dated 1995, which
reads: ‘with regard to behavioural side effects associated with Seroxat, you may be
interested in the following information relating to emergence of aggressive behaviour
and also of agitation with Seroxat.’
Gordon Brown said ‘ this investigation is being treated as a very serious investigation
and I understand that over 1 million documents are being looked at. If GSK are found
guilty prosecutions could be made.’
The Seroxat User Group would like to set up several support groups around the
country to help patients suffering from withdrawal symptoms etc but we have no
funding to do this. Would the Government be willing to help us with this?
Obviously there is a lot more that could be discussed regarding these drugs but due to
the limited amount of time we have tried to convey our points as concisely as possible
and we thank you for your time and interest.
The meeting ended at 3.20 p.m
Thanks for listening for 20 minutes, Gordon – but how about actually doing something for a change?