British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline has played down concerns about its antidepressant drug Seroxat after a reported study claimed users had experienced an increased suicide rate.
The Times reported that a study by Oslo University on Seroxat, involving more than 1,500 patients, had found seven suicide attempts among those taking the drug and only one among those taking a placebo.
GlaxoSmithKline said it appeared that the report covered only 'selective' studies and data from 16 out of the 26 studies that the British and European regulators had used. They still endorse Seroxat - or Paxil as it known in the US - as a treatment for depression.
Seroxat is one of Britain's most widely prescribed antidepressants. The front-page report in the Times said suicidal thoughts were three times more common among those taking Seroxat. Almost 2.4 million prescriptions for the drug were issued in England last year, the report added.
The study, published in the British medical magazine BMC Medicine, was conducted before Seroxat was first licensed in 1990. The Times said that several organisations, including the mental health charity Mind, had called for the drug to be withdrawn.
It said that the company and the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have defended the drug, saying its benefits outweigh the risks.