Doctors call for shyness drug debate

A DRUG for extreme shyness launched yesterday to help sufferers overcome their fearshould be examined by the NHS's purse- holders, doctors leaders said. Seroxat, an antidepressant for social phobia, is the third "lifestyle" drug to be licensed in the last month after Viagra and the anti-fat treatment for obesity, Xenical.

Although it has been available as a treatment for depression and obsessive -compulsive disorder for seven years, Seroxat has obtained a licence for the treatment of social anxiety disorder, a disabling condition which can leave patients too frightened of encountering others to leave their own homes.

The British Medical Association said the pressure imposed on the NHS budget by the development of new treatments and drugs made rationing inevitable. "A debate must be led by the Government and involve the public so that they know what they can and cannot get on the NHS," said Ian Bogle, the BMA chairman.

Dr Bogle said urgent guidance was needed for GPs on the prescribing of Viagra, which has been banned on the NHS since its launch last month. And he promised to "assist" Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, with measures to limit the availability of new drugs. But he ruled out a blanket ban on so-called "lifestyle" drugs.

Viagra, characterised as a "recreational" drug by Mr Dobson, had opened up discussion of men's sexual health which had ramifications on the whole family and was far from trivial. "Where do you draw the line? Is an oral contraceptive a lifestyle drug? I wouldn't want to go down that line - it's a very dangerous pathway," Dr Bogle said.

Between two and five per cent of the population are estimated to suffer from social anxiety disorder, marked by an extreme response to ordinary social situations, such as meeting people and going out. Typical symptoms are severe blushing, sweating, trembling, a thumping heart and finding it difficult or impossible, to speak. Some sufferers cannot sign a cheque because they fear the tremor in their hand will affect their signature and it will be questioned. They cannot use a public toilet because of anxiety about being overheard.

Professor David Nutt, a consultant psychiatrist at the University of Bristol, said many patients did not seek help because they did not think anything could be done. In others, the condition was dismissed or trivialised by their family who believed the patient would grow out of it. One women, in her 40s, had been a prisoner in her own home for 15 years until she read that treatment was available. Professor Nutt said: "Social anxiety disorder is not shyness but a severe incapacitating mental disorder. It is common, often lifelong, under-recognised and undertreated."

Psychological treatments, and older types of anti-depressants, have been shown to be effective in relieving the symptoms. Seroxat, which has fewer side effects than other drugs, has been shown to be effective in half to two-thirds of patients in three trials of 860 sufferers in Europe and the US. It costs pounds 20 for a month's supply of Seroxat. It costs around pounds 2 for a month's supply of the older type of anti-depressants.

Professor David Baldwin, a consultant psychiatrist at the University of Southampton, who co-ordinated the European trial, said two-thirds of patients would need to remain on the drug for life. "I tend to recommend psychological therapies together with drug therapy," he said.

Feared

Situations

SOCIAL Attending functions

(weddings, parties)

Conversation in a group Dating Speaking on the telephone Meeting people Eating in a restaurant

PERFORMANCE

Public speaking

Writing a cheque

Using a keyboard in

public

Playing sports

Using a public lavatory

Taking a test, eg

driving

Trying on clothes in

a shop

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn