Antidepressant medication (ADM) might not be as effective when treating people with mild depression, according to a new report published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Wednesday. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, sought to prove that pharmaceutical use is far less impactful on patients with low levels of depression, compared to patients with severe depression.
The report reviewed the results of six large studies involving patients with different levels of depression that ran the gamut from mild to severe. Patients were divided into two groups with half receiving a placebo and the other half prescribed antidepressant drugs.
The results proved the researchers’ theory correct: “True drug effects were non-existent to negligible among depressed patients with mild, moderate, or even severe baseline symptoms, whereas they were large for patients with very severe symptoms,” the report stated. “Conversely, for patients with the highest levels of baseline depression severity, ADM was markedly superior to placebo.”
The authors noted that previous drug trials were all based on data from patients with severe forms of depression, and there was never enough evidence to substantiate the prescription of antidepressant medication for milder cases. The researchers conclude with a plea for prescribers to be very careful when recommending these treatments for their patients, unless future trials prove otherwise.
“Whereas ADM can have a substantial effect with more severe depressions, there is little evidence to suggest that they produce specific pharmacological benefit for the majority of patients with less severe acute depressions,” the authors stated.
When reached for comment, GlaxoSmithKline spokesperson Sarah Alspach acknowledged the new findings while standing behind the effectiveness of her company’s treatment. “The studies used for analysis in the JAMA paper differ methodologically from studies used to support the approval of paroxetine for major depressive disorder, so it is difficult to make direct comparisons,” said Alspach.
“This study contributes to the extensive research that has helped to characterize the role of antidepressants over the years. Since its approval by the FDA in 1992, Paxil has helped millions of people battling mental illness lead more productive, happier lives. Antidepressants are an important option, in addition to counseling and lifestyle changes, for treatment of depression.”