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Coroner alarmed by lack of drugs warning

AAP logoAAP 21/11/2016 Rachael Burnett

A Queensland coroner says he's alarmed on-the-box warnings about an anti-smoking drug in the United States are not included in Australia.

Timothy John, 22, killed himself just eight days after he started taking Champix in 2013.

In the US the medication, which can cause suicidal urges, has a warning printed on the packet.

But this is not the case in Australia and the information is only available online or by request, something which has alarmed Coroner John Hutton.

"When I get my drugs I don't go to the computer and start looking up the drugs, I rely on the manufacturer to put the updated version of warnings in the box," he said on Monday.

"This is alarming because this document in my view should be put in as a warning."

Mr John, who had a history of depression and anxiety, was told the medication might make him more anxious but he was given no other warnings, Brisbane Coroners Court heard.

His mother Phoebe Moorwood-Oldham is campaigning for on-the-box warnings for the drugs, and for families to be alerted to the risks when the prescription is made.

"I would like to see black box warnings on the packet in Australia - we're no less than people in America," she added.

"Pfizer knows that there are people who commit suicide and have suicidal thoughts on this drug.

"They do nothing about it and still peddle poison to our children and kill them."

Daniel Wallis, representing Pfizer, said there are different rules in Australia to the US, which are set by the regulatory body.

He said doctors should discuss the possible side effects with patients before prescribing the medication.

Dr Oliver Yang, who prescribed the pills to Mr John, told the inquest he was surprised to learn the warning about the risks is not included inside the box.

Mrs Moorwood-Oldham said that before taking the pills her son's anxiety was minimal and he was the "best he had been for years".

He told her he felt "strange" days later and the night before he died he was found sitting with a chainsaw in his lap saying "they're coming to get me Mum, help me".

The inquest will continue on Tuesday.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467. MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

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