Man slashed wrists on Seroxat
by JAMES TOZER, Daily Mail
coroner has called for Britain's biggest-selling
antidepressant to be withdrawn after a retired headmaster who was
prescribed the drug was found dead with slashed wrists.
Colin Whitfield, 56, died just two weeks after he began taking
At his inquest, Brecon Coroner Geraint Williams said he would be
writing to Health Secretary Alan Milburn to demand the drug be
withdrawn for further safety checks.
said: 'I have grave concerns that this is a dangerous drug that
should be withdrawn until at least detailed national studies are
'I am profoundly disturbed by the effect this drug had on Colin
Whitfield. It is quite clear that Seroxat has a profound effect on
the thinking process of anyone who takes it.'
The inquest heard evidence from Mr Whitfield's wife, Kathryn,
that her husband of 30 years was a protective and loving father who
had been prescribed Seroxat for anxiety.
A fortnight later he locked himself in his garden shed and slit
Seroxat - also known as the ' antishyness pill' - has overtaken
Prozac in popularity since it was licensed in 1990. It was
prescribed to 400,000 patients in Britain last year.
Some 4,000 users are threatening legal action against makers
GlaxoSmithKline saying they suffered unpleasant withdrawal symptoms
- including suicidal feelings - after they stopped taking it.
The Government announced a review of Seroxat's safety last year
but the drug remains available.
Mr Whitfield, of Llanfrynach, Powys, was prescribed Seroxat last
His widow told the hearing there was nothing to suggest he was
suicidal and he had not been suffering from depression.
She said she was certain Seroxat was to blame for his death on
'It didn't fit the picture of who he was and we have no doubt
that it was the drug that caused him to do it,' she said.
'Two days before he died, on his birthday when he was opening
presents, he asked, "What more can I ask for than my lovely family?"
Mrs Whitfield said she was convinced her husband had not been
fully conscious of what he was doing.
The Yorkshireman had been looking forward to the coming rugby
season and had also written to his mother to say he hoped to see her
'What he did was so totally out of character. He was a very
caring, very protective father
and husband,' she said.
'He would be hating himself for what he has done to his family.'
Safety checks: coroner
says more checks
to be carried out
The coroner agreed and recorded an open verdict.
'I have a picture of a kindly, gentle, courteous family man whose
primary concern was his wife and children,' he said.
'But on this day he didn't care. He did a deliberate act
affected, I have no doubt, by the taking of Seroxat.'
Afterwards, Mrs Whitfield said: 'As a result of what the coroner
said in court, I really hope something big will come out of this. I
hope there will be restrictions on the drug's use because I believe
it is very risky.'
Solicitor Mark Harvey, who is representing thousands of
claimants, including Mrs Whitfield, in their planned legal action
against the drug's makers, said new prescriptions should cease while
the drug's safety was examined.
'This case demonstrates our belief that anyone of note who comes
across Seroxat expresses concern about what they see,' he added.
GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Seroxat, offered its 'sincere
condolences' to Mr Whitfield's family but insisted the drug was
It pointed out that those suffering from depression were more
likely to commit suicide.
'There is no valid scientific research or literature finding that
Seroxat causes suicidal thoughts or acts,' it added.
The feelgood formula
Seroxat was launched in Britain 13 years ago as a treatment
Like its well-known rival Prozac, it works by enhancing the
brain's levels of seratonin, a naturallyoccurring 'feelgood'
There have already been several cases in the U.S. against makers
GlaxoSmithKline. Nearly two years ago a jury in Wyoming ordered the
company to pay £4million to the relatives of Donald Schell.
The 60-year-old, who had been taking the drug for just two days,
killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter before turning a gun on