Girl died after taking one pill for depression

Daily Mail, Nov 5, 2004

A STUDENT died days after a violent reaction to just one dose of a powerful anti-depressant drug, an inquest has heard.

Joanne Francis, 20, was sick for more than 24 hours after taking a single tablet of Venlafaxine.

Six days later she collapsed and died on the floor of her bedroom, where she was found by her brother.

There was no evidence she had taken any substance other than the anti-depressant, coroner John Pollard told the inquest in Stockport.

But he recorded an open verdict, saying there was no definitive cause of her sudden death and the reason may never be known.

Miss Francis's death follows a Department of Health report high­lighting the rising number of deaths of patients taking Venlafaxine compared with those taking rival drugs such as Prozac.

Between 1993 and 2002, 118 people in England and Wales died while taking Venlafaxine, mainly from suicide and accidental overdose.

The inquest heard Miss Francis became depressed after finishing an art course at college in Stockport.

Her mother, Gwyneth Francis, said: 'I think she was disappointed that the course hadn't focused on her interests in textiles a little more.

'She was depressed but she was gradually becoming more like her old self. In the weeks before she died she seemed very positive and was making lots of plans for the future.'

Mrs Francis, 52, who lives with her husband Roger, 55, a metallurgist, and her sons Alex and Gareth in Hadfield, Derbyshire, said her daughter was prescribed Venlafaxine by her GP.

But after taking one tablet she became violently ill and stopped taking the drug with the promise that her GP would prescribe an alternative, the inquest heard.

Six days later, on October 27 last year, she was found dead by Alex. A post-mortem revealed she had a very small heart, which could explain her extreme reaction to the drug.

Mrs Francis said: 'The pathologist would not go as far as to say Venlafaxine caused her death, but she had been so ill with it.'

Sophie Corlett, of mental health charity Mind, said: 'Venlafaxine can be an effective treatment in severe cases of depression and anxiety. However, as with any anti-depressant, some people do experience adverse side effects including problems with blood pressure.'

A spokesman for manufacturer Wyeth said: 'More than half a million people are taking Venlafaxine in the UK and there are known side effects.

'It is a drug which doctors turn to when others have failed and does have a marked benefit for the many patients who are taking it.'