Andrew Witty’s Zyban Drug Linked To Dozens Of Deaths

LONDON, UK — January 16, 2007

“Wellbutrin XR is an important new medicine for doctors and patients in Europe,” comments Andrew Witty, president, GSK Pharmaceuticals, Europe. “Depression can be a crippling condition that is often difficult to treat. With its unique mode of action, Wellbutrin XR offers a real alternative to the depressed patient. We hope its profile will help patients stay on their therapy, which would address a significant unmet need in the area of antidepressants.”

Many people are unaware that Zyban (the so called ‘anti-smoking pill) is an antidepressant which is also marketed by GSK as Wellbutrin. It is the same chemical compound but its marketed for different things. When GSK CEO Andrew Witty was woking his way up the slimy corporate ladder at GSK, he had a role as head of marketing, and Wellbutrin (Zyban) was one of the big drugs which he was involved in promoting. Is it no wonder then that Witty has never addressed the Seroxat Scandal? Perhaps he doesn’t care much for people damaged and dead from anti-depressants? maybe we’re just human road kill on the greedy GSK profit seeking super-highway. Maybe he just doesn’t give a damn- because it seems he has no problem pushing anti-depressants on the public, even if those anti-depressants eventually end up in the news for all the wrong reasons…

GlaxoSmithKline Admits Zyban
Linked To 35 UK Deaths
Since Last June
By Paul KelsoThe


GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s second largest drug company, conceded yesterday that the anti-smoking drug Zyban was suspected of causing adverse reactions in 35 people who have died in the UK since it was introduced last June.

The acknowledgement came at the inquest of Kerry Weston, 21, a British Airways air hostess who was found dead in a hotel room in Nairobi, Kenya, in January, two weeks after she began taking the drug to help her quit her 15-a-day habit.

Giving evidence on behalf of the pharmaceutical giant, Dr Howard Marsh, senior medical adviser on Zyban to Glaxo, said that while there had been 35 deaths following adverse reactions to Zyban, there was no conclusive proof that any were directly linked to the drug.

“Although there has been this number of reports of fatal events, it has to be said these are suspected adverse reactions,” he told the inquest at Hertford coroner’s court. “We are very keen to look at each and every one of these cases very, very carefully to see if there is a contribution from Zyban to any of these deaths. But the contribution of Zyban to any of them remains unproven.”

Zyban, which is taken in pill form, has been prescribed to 360,000 patients in the UK. Of that number, 5,352 have reported adverse reactions. Zyban is a “black triangle” drug, meaning it is new to the market and has therefore to be monitored closely.

The Committee on the Safety of Medicines (CSM), which monitors the introduction of new drugs and has scrutinised Zyban use, said these figures where consistent with its expectations.

“Zyban is used in a population of patients who are put at risk because of smoking and, therefore, reports of deaths of patients receiving Zyban are to be expected,” said Professor Alasdair Breckenridge, CSM chairman.

“Where information is available, the majority of patients who died had underlying conditions that provide an alternative explanation. The CSM considers that the reports received are in line with the known safety profile of Zyban, which is fully reflected in the product information for health professionals and patients.”

The inquest into Ms Weston’s death heard that in addition to Zyban she had taken non-prescription anti-malarial tablets and a sleeping compound on the day she died. Dr Marsh told the court that in future Glaxo would be warning that Zyban should not be taken in conjunction with anti-malarial drugs.

He said people with a history of seizures, epilepsy, manic depression or liver disease were already warned not to take the drug.

Ms Weston was prescribed the drug by the BA cabin crew GP, Dr Mark Andrew.

“She described great difficulty with the problem of smoking,” Dr Andrews told the inquest.

“She requested help with this … and what she called the pill for smoking.”

Aware that the drug was under scrutiny, Dr Andrews prescribed a fortnight’s supply and told Ms Weston to return when she had taken the pills.

Her mother, Eileen Weston, told the court that shortly after her daughter began taking Zyban she passed out at Gatwick airport after returning from Baltimore.

“She remembered feeling unwell and then all she remembered was waking up on the bathroom floor as if she had gone to sleep,” Mrs Weston said. “Her words were that she thought she had fallen asleep in the bathroom but her head was very sore when she stood up.”

Shortly afterwards, Ms Weston flew to Nairobi. Colleagues on the plane said she seemed well, but became concerned when she failed to turn up for a drink in the cabin crew’s hotel.

Steward Philip Stuart said hotel staff had to force open the door to her room. He said: “We could see Kerry inside lying on the floor with her head close to the door. “We put our hand in and felt her neck. She was still warm and clammy.”

When the group entered the room they discovered Kerry had vomited and that her nose and legs were turning blue.

Zyban or bupropin hydrochloride, developed as an anti-depressant, was found to ease the desire for nicotine, even in heavy smokers. It works by supressing the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline – the brain’s “pleasure centres” – which are stimulated by nicotine. Glaxo sank millions into marketing it. More than 1m Americans claim to have stopped smoking after taking the drug.

Antidepressant Wellbutrin becomes ‘poor man’s cocaine’ on Toronto streets

By Jennifer Tryon and Nick Logan Global News

Video: A popular antidepressant has found its way to the streets & become known as the “poor man’s cocaine.” Global National’s Jen Tryon explains.

WARNING: This post contains graphic images that some viewers may find disturbing.

TORONTO – The first time Marty MacDonnell injected Wellbutrin he had no idea what else was going into his veins.

He gets the drug from his doctor to treat depression. It’s one of Canada’s most popular and easily accessible prescription drugs. He also buys it on the streets, where it can go for $2.50 per pill.

In fact, some refer to it as the “poor man’s cocaine.”

Users say it gives them a crack-like high at a much cheaper price.

“I’ve got, in all my time using it, I’ve probably got a good rush maybe half a dozen times, like it was an actual cocaine high,” MacDonnell said. “The rest of the time it’s just speed. Or like a high dose of caffeine just keeps me very alert, that’s about it.”

But, on some nights he has taken as many as 10 pills.

Bupropion, the pharmaceutical name for Wellbutrin, is also marketed as the smoking cessation drug Zyban, which can be bought over the counter without a prescription.

The pill contains binding agents that make it easy to swallow. They’re harmless when the pill is taken properly, but not when it’s crushed and inhaled or injected with a syringe.


The proof of the risks associated with shooting Wellbutrin or Zyban is all over MacDonnell’s body.

You can count on his skin nearly every time he’s done it.

“Somebody asked me what happened to my arm and I told them a shark bit me,” MacDonnell said.


Toronto’s The Works Needle Exchange and Harm Reduction Supplies has seen a steady rise in skin abscesses, collapsed veins and clogged arteries attributed to injecting Zyban and Wellbutrin.

“I’m very worried about Wellbutrin right now,” Toronto Public Health physician Dr. Leah Steele told Global News. “[It’s not] on the radar of most physicians.” The first time she heard of anyone abusing it was about three years ago, when a patient spoke of a friend injecting it.

Now, it’s estimated that nearly half of Toronto’s injection drug users have now tried it.

Out of 75 patients on a methadone program at The Works, Steele said half of them have tried injecting Wellbutrin. On top of that, she said it’s readily available in the prison system.

It also worried Dr. Dan Cass, Ontario’s Chief Coroner, who issued a warning about the Bupropion in May after at least six deaths as a result of abusing the drug.

“We’re aware of cases where the injection of the drug and the damage to the tissue from that injection is what directly lead to the death,” Cass told Global News.

“When used in the way it’s prescribed it’s a relatively safe and fairly effective drug,” he said. “[But] one of the properties when it’s ground up and injected is it’s very caustic, so it tends to do a lot of damage to issues and to some of the deeper structures.”

“One death in particular involved an injection into a blood vessel in the neck,” he explained. “The subsequent damage to the tissue cased damage to the spinal cord and [the individual] bled to death.”

Cass is trying to warn physicians about the potential for Wellbutrin and Zyban abuse.

“I think the thing that surprises me most about this is that people continue to do it even after they’ve developed the most gruesome lesions that you could imagine,” Steele said. “The drug is still compelling enough for them to keep injecting it.”

“These wounds from Wellbutrin are different because they really erode the whole tissue around the injection area,” Steele said, adding the wounds can get “very invasive infections” that can lead to death.

MacDonnell has been treated for wounds on his skin, some of which have gone so deep they’ve reached the bone.


“That’s when I woke up I took a look at my arms and said ‘Oh, Jesus. You’d better smarten up and get something done with this,’” he said.

The problem for MacDonnell is that he still needs to take Wellbutrin.

“I’ve suffered depression most of my life, so I think that’s how I got on it,” he said.

Livingstone’s drug treatment has become an issue at the inquest because it has heard suggestions the rape over five hours which led to the break up of his marriage was caused by a psychotic episode brought on by a combination of the anti-smoke drug zyban and escitalopram.

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