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Wonder drug - could end in disaster

Prozac and drugs like it could be making healthy people with no history of mental illness feel suicidal. Prozac is prescribed to more than 38 million people world-wide, and has been one of the pharmaceutical industries biggest success stories of recent years. Prozac and Lustral belong to a group of drugs known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). This class of drugs of which Prozac is the best known were hailed as "wonder drugs" when they first hit the market in the 1980's.//hey act to modify levels of serotonin, an important brain chemical messenger generally thought to be associated with mood and feelings of pleasure. Prozac is known as Seroxat in Britain and Paxil in the US. This drug has the generic name-Paroxetine.

However, tests using Lustral, suggests that the Prozac "family" of drugs, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, may have dangerous side-effects. There has long been concerns that the drug is prescribed to patients who suffer only mild symptoms of depression, and who are not clinically ill. The research was conducted by Dr David Healy, of the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine. Dr Healy found that 2 out of 20 healthy volunteers on Lustral became dangerously suicidal. No such effect was found when the volunteers were put on an antidepressant of a different class called reboxetine.

"There are risk with these pills and benefits. Doctors need to make sure that the people they give these pills to are going to benefit, and that taking the risk is worthwhile - I don't think that always happens." says Dr Healy. Dr Healy has written to the Medicines Control Agency, which licences medicines in the UK, expressing concern about SSRIs. He is also concerned that his research has uncovered a serious problem with the way drug trials in general are carried out.

Drug trials, Dr Healy says, are designed to test whether a drug can treat a condition, not to uncover evidence of side effects. Howev er, pharmaceutical companies argue that because no evidence of side effects has been uncovered, that proves their drugs are safe.


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