Punk rocker sues over anti-depressant

A famed punk rocker claims his life has been ruined by addiction to an anti-depressant drug.

Kirk Brandon, perhaps best known for his time with 1980s legends Spear of Destiny, is the latest in a string of people to claim damages against pharmaceutical giants.

Kirk, who now lives in Lewes, could be headed for a High Court showdown with GlaxoSmithKline UK in a David and Goliath style legal battle in a bid for compensation.

The 51-year-old, now in his third decade of making music, is claiming up to £50,000 following undisclosed personal injuries after taking the widely prescribed anti-depressant drug Seroxat, also known as paroxetine.

The musician made his name as singer and guitarist with Theatre of Hate, before forming the first Spear of Destiny line-up in 1982. Throughout the 1980s the band's albums, including Grapes of Wrath, One Eyed Jacks, and World Service, consistently reached the top 20 and led to them supporting rock giants U2.

In recent years, Kirk, who teaches at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, has also turned his attention to acoustic performances, forming eclectic super group, Dead Men Walking.

Alongside Kirk Brandon are firm friends in the form of Captain Sensible (The Damned) Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats) and Mike Peters (The Alarm).

Kirk has experienced setbacks in the recent past through illness, but he is currently going through one of his most active periods for many years.

Spear of Destiny are touring at the moment, with UK dates later this month and next, recalling the dark and high powered rock which made them so popular.

But all is not well, and Kirk is the latest in a group of several hundred people who want to sue the drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, claiming their lives have been blighted by addiction to the drug, which was originally marketed as non-addictive.

The pharmaceutical giant is contesting the legal action. A spokesman said: "We believe there is no merit in this litigation. Seroxat has benefited millions of people worldwide who have suffered from depression."

Mr Brandon's solicitor, Mark Harvey, who has been instructed by more than 2,000 claimants in relation to the investigation of claims arising from the Seroxat and Vioxx drugs, and problematic medical devices, said: "All the claimants allege that they tried to withdraw from Seroxat and have suffered discontinuation syndrome."

A World Health Organisation league table of the drugs that have difficulties on withdrawal puts Paroxetine (Seroxat) at the top with twice as many reports as the next highest, another SSRI called Efexor (Venlafaxine). The benzodiazapines Ativan and Valium rate 11th and 13th.

The Government has announced an inquiry into Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibited Drugs, known as SSRI, such as Seroxat and Prozac.

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