Son, 21, took his life after suffering from anxiety ‘from asthma drug’
Asthma drug drove my son to kill himself: Rugby-playing law student, 21, took his own life after suffering from anxiety and nightmares, his mother says
- James Burke’s mother said he became depressed and anxious after taking drug
- Drug, montelukast,admits these illnesses are side effects of the asthma pills
- James’s mother, Sharon, said: ‘James took the final decision to kill himself but that drug put him in the frame of mind to do it’
A grieving mother believes her law student son took his own life after years of anxiety and depression caused by a controversial asthma drug.
James Burke, a talented rugby league player, was just 21 when he hanged himself at his home.
His mother, Sharon, says montelukast, a drug widely used to reduce the risk of asthma attacks, contributed to his death and wants to warn others of its potential dangers.
‘James took the final decision to kill himself but that drug put him in the frame of mind to do it,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.
James Burke, a talented rugby league player, was just 21 when he hanged himself at his home
James, who attended Leeds University, played age-group rugby league for Jamaica, despite being diagnosed with asthma as a child.
He began taking montelukast tablets at the age of 13, but his mother said he began to suffer anxiety, nightmares and stomach problems – all potential side effects of the drug.
‘I just thought it was the transition from middle school to high school,’ she said.
‘I really didn’t know anything about this drug. I know drugs have side effects – but nothing so catastrophic.’
Ms Burke, 55, is racked with guilt that she pestered him to take his daily pill.
‘I used to say, “Have you taken your tablet, James? Come on! Have it! Have it!” ’ she said.
‘And to think I was slowly poisoning him. Imagine having to live with that? But I didn’t know.’
Shortly before his death in April 2017, James stepped in when he saw a drunk woman being led away by a man who he feared would take advantage of her.
The woman attended his funeral and tearfully told his mother: ‘James saved me.’
His death devastated the Leeds University Gryphons, the rugby league team he played for, which has since launched mental health campaigns.
His mother, Sharon, says montelukast, a drug widely used to reduce the risk of asthma attacks, contributed to his death and wants to warn others of its potential dangers. Stock picture
Ms Burke has also set up the James Burke Foundation to carry out similar work.
An inquest last December returned a verdict of suicide but, despite the pleas of Ms Burke, made no mention of montelukast.
‘Doctors never reviewed his medication, even after I came to them and said he was very anxious,’ she said.
‘They kept on prescribing it, but at the inquest the whole thing was just swept under the carpet.’
A growing number of people are concerned by the disturbing side effects of montelukast, which was prescribed almost three million times in England last year.
The Asthma UK charity says the drug is safe and effective for most people, but campaigners want more prominent information about its potential dangers on information leaflets.
Montelukast was first made by an American company called MSD under the name Singulair.
The firm said the drug’s side effects were listed on leaflets.
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