June 5

Toxicologist Blames Prozac for Wife’s Suicide – UK

Toxicologist Blames Prozac for Wife’s Suicide – UK

Fri, 27 Jun 2003

News reports from the UK are awash with cases of drug-induced violent suicidal behavior by patients taking Prozac, Paxil and the other antidepressant drugs in their class–i.e., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

A coroner’s inquest of the suicide by a librarian and researcher points to the risk of suicide–not just for teenagers, but adults. Wendy Hay was 52, she hanged herself in a second suicide attempt after taking Prozac for 5 weeks. Her husband, Professor Alistair Hay, a toxicologist, blames Prozac and Dr. David Healy, the prominent psychiatrist who champions full disclosure of drug related risks-even if the risks affect only a minority of patients–agrees. Dr. Healy points out that the preponderance of evidence–both case histories and clinical trials–demonstrate that SSRIs have precipitated suicidal behavior in a minority of patients taking (or attempting to stop taking) Prozac and the other SSRIs. Those affected had no prior history of suicide attempts.

The Guardian reports: “Dr Healy said he believed that, on the balance of probabilities, if she had not been on Prozac or those caring for her had known about the risk it posed for a few people, “she would not have taken her own life”.

In the US, the pharmaceutical industry has inordinate influence on the medical profession and government oversight agencies. That influence has given rise to a confluence of interest groups who resist the call for full disclosure. Those responsible for protecting consumers from harmful drugs are resorting to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” strategy.

Whereas the British government is beginning to take action, such as protecting children from Paxil, the FDA has a record of shielding drug manufacturers by downplaying the risk which FDA’s own data confirms. Under public pressure, thanks to the riveting reporting by the UK media–BBC, the Guardian, Times–GlaxoSmithKline deleted an unsubstantiated claim from the label of Seroxat (PAXIL). The drug’s label in the UK no longer claims that the drug is non-habit forming. In the US, FDA with the Department of Justice, intervened in federal court precisely about the company making that false claim in its US advertisements.

Why should drug manufacturers be exempt from federal “truth in advertising” laws? Why does the FDA fail to protect the American public by requiring drug companies to disclose severe, even life-threatening risks of harm?



Prozac made librarian kill herself, says psychiatrist

Sarah Boseley, health editor
Thursday June 5, 2003
The Guardian

Prozac caused the wife of one of the UK’s leading chemical weapons experts to kill herself, a psychiatrist and expert on antidepressant drugs told an inquest yesterday.

The inquest into the death of Wendy Hay, a librarian who committed suicide aged 52 last September, heard David Healy, director of the north Wales department of psychological medicine, say that it was now well accepted among European experts that antidepressants can cause a small minority of people who are depressed to want to kill themselves.

“There is a preponderant body of medical opinion throughout Europe that antidepressants can cause people to commit suicide. In the United States it might be a bit contentious, but in Europe it is not,” said Dr Healy, who has been an expert witness in the US in litigation against the companies that manufacture drugs of the Prozac class (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs).

The West Yorkshire coroner, David Hinchliffe, sitting in Leeds where Mrs Hay’s husband Alastair is a professor in environmental toxicology at the university, heard that Mrs Hay suffered depression four years ago from which she recovered, only to fall ill again last year. Her GP prescribed Prozac.

Three weeks later, Mrs Hay tried to drown herself in the River Wharfe. Two weeks after that attempt, she hanged herself in the garage. Professor Hay told the inquest that he deeply regretted telling nobody about the first incident. “We operated on the basis of trust throughout our relationship and for me it would have been a major breach of trust to have gone behind her back.”

Dr Healy said he believed that, on the balance of probabilities, if she had not been on Prozac or those caring for her had known about the risk it posed for a few people, “she would not have taken her own life”.

Prozac could be a miracle cure for some, he said, but more than warnings in fine print were now needed to minimise the risk to others.

The inquest continues.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,969224,00.html Prozac ‘led to wife’s suicide’

Sarah Boseley
Tuesday June 3, 2003
The Guardian

A toxicologist will tell an inquest in Leeds tomorrow that he believes Prozac caused his wife to kill herself.

Alastair Hay, professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University, will give evidence of the build-up of the antidepressant in his wife, Wendy, who hanged herself in September. She had taken Prozac for five weeks.

Mrs Hay, 52, overcame a first episode of depression. In April 1999, she was prescribed Seroxat – like Prozac, a drug of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. After a bad reaction, she was given Prozac.

The depression returned last year, and she took Prozac. After her death, Prof Hay found research suggesting a link between SSRIs and suicidal agitation. He believes for some people the standard Prozac dose is too high. Eli Lilly, maker of Prozac, said there was “no credible evidence” Prozac caused suicidal behaviour.


02 June 2003

Anti-depression drug Prozac will come under searching examination in Leeds this week at an inquest into the death of a top professor’s wife.

Librarian and researcher Wendy Hay, 52, of north Leeds was found hanged in September last year. It will be the first time in Britain that such a high-level public hearing will examine the safety of the drug.

Professor Alistair Hay, head of environmental toxicology at Leeds University and one of the West’s top experts in chemical and biological warfare, will tell the inquest that he believes treatment with the “happy pill” Prozac played a large part in the death of his wife. Giving supportive evidence at the inquest will be Clive Adams, professor of adult psychiatry at Leeds University and one of the world’s acknowledged experts on Prozac, and David Healy, consultant clinical psychologist at the University of Bangor.

Prof Hay will tell the inquest that his monitoring of his wife’s mood swings during her treatment prove that the drug Prozac caused suicidal surges, which eventually led to her death. He has since carried out his own studies into the drug. “I believe the doses used in this country and the blanket treatment of patients is unwise,” he said.

The manufacturer of Prozac, Eli Lilly, has engaged a top barrister to represent them in Leeds. In a statement from its US headquarters the firm said: “Depression is a serious, life-threatening medical condition characterized by a variety of symptoms. Suicidal thinking and suicidal acts are symptoms of depression – they are caused by the disease, not by the medicines used to treat it. There is no credible scientific evidence that establishes a causal connection between Prozac and violent or suicidal behaviour. “In fact, scientific evidence shows that Prozac and other anti-depressant medications appear to reduce these behaviours.

“The safety of Prozac is thoroughly documented. More than 40m patients worldwide have taken Prozac since it first came on the market in Belgium in 1986 and more than 12,000 patients have participated in Prozac clinical trials. Thousands of scientific papers have referenced Prozac, making it amo ng the most studied medications in history.”

The inquest comes just two weeks after the British Government announced that a major inquiry is to be launched into the safety of widely prescribed anti-depressant drugs, including Seroxat and Prozac, following a spate of suicides and reports of severe withdrawal reactions. The Government’s medical advisers have caved in to pressure to hold a fully independent assessment of the risks associated with the anti-depressants known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.

They were responding to reports of suicides among patients taking the medication, as well as users describing nightmares, tremors and feelings of violence. An expert group of the Committee on the Safety of Medicines will listen to first-hand experiences, and investigate reports of suicidal behaviour.

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