Depressing News About Antidepressants

Apr 01, 2002

London, UK - According to the magazine Health Which?, patients fail to receive full information about the efficacy and safety of antidepressants, including the risks of withdrawal and suicidal behavior.

Published by the UK's influential Consumers Association, Health Which? reports that, although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have become the depression treatment of choice, some clinicians now question them.

The magazine suggests that the Royal College of Psychiatrists and others have exaggerated antidepressants' effectiveness and underplayed their side effects. It says many clinical trial results are unconvincing and some have shown that antidepressants perform no better than placebos. And there is a strong indication that studies demonstrating antidepressants' ineffectiveness are less likely to be published than those that show they are effective.

Health Which? has also uncovered new evidence suggesting that some patients are likely to attempt suicide after taking SSRIs, and it has sent that evidence to the Medicines Control Agency. Although SSRI manufacturers have been forced to strengthen side-effects warnings on their labels, Health Which? claims those warnings are inadequate.

Sue Freeman, the magazine's managing editor, says: "Doctors, drug companies, and regulators have argued for some time about how to describe the problems patients may have when they stop taking SSRI-type antidepressants. Terms such as 'discontinuation problems' or 'withdrawal syndrome' are used instead of 'dependency' or 'addiction.' The fact remains that some patients experience very unpleasant symptoms that are not related to a recurrence of their illness when they stop taking SSRI antidepressants."

She says MCA should review the warnings SSRI manufacturers must give, both in patient information leaflets and prescriber information, about withdrawal and the increased risk of suicidal behavior associated with it.

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