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UK regulators have ruled that a top-
selling antidepressant should not be
prescribed to children or adolescents
who are suffering from depression.
The drug, paroxetine, is an ineffective
treatment for major depression in this age
group and could possibly increase suicidal
tendencies, the Committee on Safety of
Medicines (CSM) said on 10 June.
Paroxetine, a member of the same
class of drug as Prozac, is widely used to
treat depression and other nervous
disorders. It is not licensed for use in
children but can be prescribed by
doctors on an individual basis — about
The climate-change debate in Russia is being charged by natural disasters such as this glacier collapse.
8,000 patients aged under 18 have been
given the drug in Britain in the past year.
The CSM’s ruling followed a review
Researchers rattled as Kyoto
of fresh clinical data on 1,200 children
treated with paroxetine for depression,
social anxiety and obsessive–compulsive
Protocol hangs in the balance
disorder. The information was provided
by UK-based drug firm GlaxoSmithKline
Quirin Schiermeier, Munich
(GSK), which markets the drug under
European climate researchers are expressing
service, Izrael is described by his critics as
the name of Seroxat in Britain and as
unease about the objectives of a conference
firmly rooted in Soviet scientific traditions.
Paxil in the United States.
He is also well-known for his reservations
The data show that the children with
fear that sceptics in Russia want to use the
depression did not benefit from taking
meeting to help block ratification of the
At least one participant has decided not
the drug, the CSM said. It added that
to attend the WCCC. “The objectives of the
there was a two to three times higher
Several scientists, who didn’t want to be
meeting have not become clear to me at all,”
incidence of “potentially suicidal
identified, told Nature
that they had consid-
says Ulrich Cubasch, a meteorologist at the
behaviour” among those treated with the
ered boycotting the forthcoming World Free University in Berlin. “I don’t want to let
drug compared with those receiving a
myself be used for purposes which I may not
placebo, although total numbers were
too small to be statistically significant.
The CSM did not rule on using
raise important issues,” says Hervé Le Treut,
paroxetine to treat social anxiety or
decided to press on with the conference, in
obsessive–compulsive disorder, for
the belief that a boycott would offend the
Meteorology in Paris. “But after all the diffi-
which there was evidence of efficacy.
Russians and jeopardize climate negotiations
culties in discussing things freely at the
On 13 June, Senator Charles Schumer
preparatory meeting, I have very mixed feel-
(Democrat, New York) called on the US
Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is cur-
ings about this conference.” He adds that he
Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
rently being debated by the Russian adminis-
has not yet decided whether he will accept
to investigate the effects of paroxetine on
tration and, if it happens, would mean that
an invitation to give a talk at the conference.
children and teenagers. The FDA was
But Izrael dismisses the criticism. “It
expected to announce an investigation
come into force. But the debate is very finely
will be a purely scientific meeting,” he says.
balanced, and some researchers fear that “There will be no political decisions or
Over the past few years, GSK has been
climate-change sceptics in Russia want to recommendations.”
under increasing pressure from patients
use the WCCC meeting to block ratification.
and their supporters, who say that
paroxetine increases suicidal tendencies
has said that he will attend the conference,
in all age groups. The company says that
behaviour of Yuri Izrael, the Russian chairman
and most of the 37 invited Western keynote
there is no evidence for this.
of the programme committee, at last month’s
David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist
at the University of Bristol, UK, says that
democratic exercise, everything was stage-
only help those who might be interested in
the CSM ruling has little bearing on the
managed,” says one German participant.
steering the climate debate in Russia in a
debate about paroxetine’s possible side
direction that they see fit,” says Hartmut
effects in depressed adults. The CSM was
concerned that the drug was ineffective
(IPCC), and a science adviser to the Russian
in depressed children, so there was no
president, Vladimir Putin, who will open the
reason to take any risk, he says.
NATURE | VOL 423 | 19 JUNE 2003 | www.nature.com/nature
2003 Nature Publishing Group
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