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When TV damned the drug regulators

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 07 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:865
  1. Patrick Waller, consultant in pharmacoepidemiology (
  1. Southampton

    On Sunday 3 October the BBC screened its third Panorama documentary about the antidepressant paroxetine (Seroxat). This was strongly critical of the work of the British regulatory body responsible for medicines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). A multitude of plausible sounding experts and commentators had been assembled to impart some clear messages—there are big problems with paroxetine and the regulators have messed up big time. The programme claimed that the MHRA had overlooked vital information about paroxetine that suggested it could increase suicidal feelings in all age groups. Richard Brook, the chief executive of the charity MIND, stated on the Panorama website that the agency was “either guilty of extreme negligence or worse dishonesty” ( That is a serious accusation and, if the thrust of this programme is correct, we should all be worried about the medicines we prescribe, recommend, or take.

    To be told on television that I and many colleagues do not care is galling

    I have …

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