"Miracle cure: pill against shyness"

Our attention was drawn to this 4 October report on Belgian ceefax, which translates as follows:

"British scientists proudly announce the invention of a new miracle cure: a pill against shyness. According to the British Sunday paper, The Sunday Times, in Great Britain alone the medication will be the solution to three million chronically shy people

The medication, Seroxat, increases the quantity of serotonine in the brain. This chemical causes a feeling of euphoria, eventually leading to more self-confidence.

The medication has existed for a longer period of time. Until now, it has mainly been prescribed for depression. Now, British scientists have successfully used it to combat social phobias"

The following is the text posted on 4 October 1998 on The Sunday Times website, of the original report, by Cherry Norton, Social Affairs Correspondent:


Spare your blushes: doctors create pill to stop shyness 

BRITISH scientists are to launch a pill for shyness this week. Hot on the heels of anti-impotence and anti-obesity treatments comes the latest lifestyle drug: a remedy for social phobia. A team from Bristol and Southampton universities has successfully tested the pill, which could cure the estimated 3m chronically shy people in Britain. At least 10m others admit to social awkwardness.

The drug, to be marketed by SmithKline Beecham, the British pharmaceutical company, has been licensed by the government as a treatment for shyness and social phobia, which means it will be available on the National Health Service.

Experts believe it could prove a huge new financial drain on the NHS. If all Britain's chronically shy took it up, it could cost the NHS as much as 700m a year. It is already feared that the demand for other so-called lifestyle drugs, such as Viagra, the anti-impotence pill, and Xenical, the anti-obesity drug, could add 1.2 billion to the NHS bill.

The shyness pill works by increasing the level of seratonin in the brain, a chemical which induces a sense of euphoria, boosts feelings of wellbeing and so improves people's self-confidence.

"It is not a wonder drug to turn anoraks into witty after-dinner speakers but it will help people with a serious medical phobic condition," said Dr Brian Goss, who is on the GPs' committee of the British Medical Association.

One patient who took part in the trial, a 29-year-old woman from southwest London, was so shy that she avoided going out because of the risk of meeting strangers. After three months on the pill her life has been transformed, with every weekend spent "pubbing and clubbing to make up for lost time", her psychiatrist said.

The drug, Seroxat, was originally licensed to treat depression. However, Dr David Wheatley, a consultant psychiatrist who carried out part of the clinical trial for SmithKline Beecham, said: "Improvements were noticed within a week. It seems that it is working on completely different chemical receptors in the brains of people suffering from social phobia."

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