Devastating Effect of the 'Wonder Drug' Campaigners Have Welcomed News That There Is to Be an Inquiry into Influence of Drug Companies on Health Policy. Chief Feature Writer Paul Groves Talks to One Woman Who Claims Such a Move Is Long Overdue

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Groves

Rebecca Wilkins is still waiting, albeit not so patiently nowadays, for some satisfactory answers.

She wants to know, for example, why she felt pressurised into taking certain drugs to combat depression despite continually claiming they were doing her physical harm.

She would like to know why, several years on, she believes the so-called wonder drug contributed to the downward spiral that saw her contemplating suicide.

Above all, however, she would like an answer to the big question -why wasn't there stricter monitoring of the effects of drugs like Seroxat and the impact these prescribed anti-depressants were having on thousands of vulnerable patients?

Last year, the Committee on the Safety of Medicines created a specialist group to look at withdrawal symptoms suffered by users of anti-depressants -also known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) -amid growing concern about the effect on patients.

A number of reported suicides have been attributed to the prescribed drugs, while those taking the medication have claimed they suffer from nightmares and have experienced violent episodes or feelings of violence.

There is relief that the committee launched its review and that a parliamentary inquiry into the influence of major pharmaceutical manufacturers has now been announced. But there is also deep-rooted anger that such moves have taken so long to come into being.

Rebecca Wilkins spent six painful months weaning herself off anti-depressants, during which time she would regularly self-harm as a substitute for taking the drugs. 'A couple of times I actually started cutting my wrists, but both times something happened to snap me out of it,' explained the 28-year-old graduate from Brierley Hill, who had been prescribed thedrug by her GP after a series of depression-related illnesses diagnosed as early as the age of 14.

'It was obvious to me and to those closest to me that the drugs were causing more harm to me. But my GP was fairly insistent and kept telling me the drugs were safe and the manufacturers had carried out exhaustive trials.

'He was not interested in listening to me and Ididn't know where to turn for help. 'Everyone I talked to seemed to say the same thing, that the major drug companies were trustworthy and wouldn't put their names to anything that was potentially harmful.'

She had been prescribed Seroxat anddespite feeling uneasy almost immediately, her GP and counsellor insisted she had to continue taking the drugs. 'I told my GP and counsellor that I wasn't happy with the drugs, but they said they were helping to control my depression and warned me against stopping,' she added. 'I was scared of what would happen if I did stop, so I carried on. …