GRIEVING families fear a common anti-depressant is linked to the deaths of their loved ones.
Heart problems have been reported in at least 14 people who were taking sertraline when they died.
Alamy1 Families have expressed their fears as a common anti-depressant their loved ones had taken has been linked to their deaths
Liam Batten, 24, suffered cardiac arrest last July, after taking the common anti-depressant to relieve his anxiety and agoraphobia.
He died nine days after his GP changed increased his dose to a higher level, which was still within the recommended range, the Mail on Sunday reported.
A post-mortem found that Liam had "elevated" levels of sertraline in his system, at 0.57mg a litre, which could prove fatal, the newspaper reported.
But an inquest concluded his death was down to sudden arrythmic death syndrome (SADS), in which the heart stops beating for no specific reason.
His dad Shane told the inquest: "I'm just concerned with the medications. Especially for a big lad as well.
"Surely it could not be very good for the heart."
COLLAPSED IN THE STREET
Sadie Stock, 28, who had just had her first child, was taking the medication to treat her post-natal depression when she collapsed in the street.
A doctor found her heart racing at 150 beats per minute. Her husband rushed to her side but she died moments later.
At an inquest into her death, pathologist Dr Ashish Narula said he believed she suffered a cardiac arrest brought on by sertraline.
But the coroner ruled she died of natural causes as there was no evidence the drug had affected her heart.
Sadie's husband James told the Mail he thinks there's more to the drug.
He added: "Was it the drug? There’s nothing I can do about it and I’ll never know."
Surely it could not be very good for the heart
Liam Batten's dad Shane
Setraline belongs to the group of medication called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said 164 people have died since 1990, after taking sertraline, and 14 of those were linked to heart problems.
Seven of those who suffered heart problems died following SADS, like Liam.
DEATHS CANNOT BE IGNORED
Health professionals and campaigners are now questioning if the drug is linked to heart problems with those who have a genetic history of heart issues.
Professor Mary Sheppard said: "I agree the association with sertraline and SADS is there but there is no hard data.
"If it’s 12 deaths a week we might be able to say it with more certainty. Meanwhile, we mustn’t ignore cases like this."
Charity Cardiac Risk In The Young (CRY) has warned young people with heart conditions to avoid sertraline.
HOW ANTI-DEPRESSANTS WORK
Antiedepressants are tablets used to treat clinical depression.
It is not exactly known how antidepressants work, but experts believe they increase the levels of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain.
The NHS explains neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline, are linked to mood and emotion.
But those chemicals can also affect pain signals sent by nerves, which is why they can sometimes help long-term pain.
The medication can help treat the symptoms of medication, but they don't address the cause.
Sun Online has contacted the MHRA for comment.
A spokesperson told the Mail on Sunday: "Patients are advised to discuss with their doctor if they have ever been told they have a problem with their heart or if they have heart disease, a family history of heart rhythm problems, low potassium levels, low heart rate or are taking any other medicines which affect the heart."