Drug firm is sued by 'violent' patient

THE MAKER of Britain's most popular anti-depressant drug is to be sued by a man who claims it can cause violent and suicidal behaviour.

Duncan Murchison, 42, will be the first person in the UK to claim damages from the US company Eli Lilly for its drug Prozac. More than 100 cases have already been filed in the United States.

Mr Murchison, of Inverness, claims he became violent after taking the drug, which is prescribed by more than 5,000 doctors in Britain. His civil claim will be lodged in September with the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Eli Lilly denies that Prozac can leads to violence and suicidal. Between its introduction in 1987 and June 1992, about 480,000 prescriptions were written for Prozac (chemical name fluoxetine) in the UK.

In this period the Department of Health received 45 reports of attempted suicide by patients taking the drug. More than 11 million people have been prescribed Prozac in the US and Europe. Sweden and Norway have both rejected applications to register the drug.

Mr Murchison was prescribed Prozac in 1989 for depression after the death of his wife. 'I had terrible tremors and severe insomnia,' he said. He stopped taking it several months later but started again in summer 1990. 'I became verbally aggressive. I started hallucinating and felt totally out of it.'

He says his strange behaviour caused his new fiancee to break off their engagement. On 21 September 1990 he went to her home and threatened her and her son with an antique pistol. He pleaded guilty to a charge of assault, was jailed for three years and was released after about a year.

'I stopped taking Prozac but it's taken about 18 months for me to feel normal again - I'm sure my change in character was a drug-induced psychosis,' he said.

A spokeswoman for Eli Lilly said: 'The behaviour that has been alleged is the underlying cause of the symptoms Prozac is supposed to treat (depression). Every scientifically controlled study has shown that Prozac lessens suicidal behaviour.'

A paper by a government watchdog body concluded that: 'There is little to support the suggestion that fluoxetine induces suicidal or aggressive behaviour.'