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
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn