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UK may ban antidepressants for children

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- The UK government is set to ban the prescription of antidepressant drugs for children because of evidence they can cause them to become suicidal, The Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Department of Health declined to comment on the report but said the government's watchdog on drug safety -- the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) -- would be making a statement later on Wednesday.

The Guardian reported that after looking at details of clinical trials carried out by drug companies in the 1990s, the MHRA has told doctors not to prescribe all but one of the antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

The exception is Prozac, which is licensed for use in depressed children in the United States.

The MHRA will be advising doctors not to prescribe Cipralex, a second-generation antidepressant manufactured by Danish group Lundbeck A/S, its predecessor drug Cipramil, as well as Lustral, manufactured by Pfizer Inc and Faverin.

Earlier this year, the UK authorities said that Wyeth's anti-depression drug Effexor should not be taken by children. Effexor is not licensed for use in people under 18 but it was nevertheless prescribed to an estimated 3,000 British youngsters.

The government also advised in June that GlaxoSmithKline Plc's anti-depression drug Seroxat should be not prescribed to children.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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