The first comprehensive study to date on antidepressants has concluded that they are no more effective than a placebo, and in some cases cause suicide.
The damning study, published in the Lancet, found that commonly prescribed drugs for treating depression in children and adolescents caused more damage to patients than actually treated their symptoms.
Of 14 common antidepressants studied, only fluoxetine — best known under the brand name, Prozac — proved marginally more effective in treating major depression than a placebo. Alarmingly, venlafaxine, brand name Effexor, “was linked with an increased risk of engaging in suicidal thoughts or attempts” when compared to both placebo and five other medications.
“The balance of risks and benefits of antidepressants for the treatment of major depression does not seem to offer a clear advantage in children and teenagers, with probably only the exception of fluoxetine,” summarized Prof. Peng Xie, study co-author from The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, China. “We recommend that children and adolescents taking antidepressants should be monitored closely, regardless of the antidepressant chosen, particularly at the beginning of treatment.”
However, despite such damning revelations, study authors also rebuked the pharmaceutical industry for making unbiased and thorough data available for research using the shield of patient privacy to invoke intellectual property rights.
“Without access to individual-level data it is difficult to get accurate effect estimates and we can’t be completely confident about the accuracy of the information contained in published and unpublished trials,” warned study lead author, Dr. Andrea Cipriani of the University of Oxford, U.K. “It has been widely argued that there needs to be a transformation of existing scientific culture to one where responsible data sharing should be the norm.”
Diagnosed major depressive disorder affects a statistically striking number of young people — 3 percent of children between 6 and 12 years of age and 6 percent of teens between 13 and 18 years old. Accuracy of diagnostic methods or possible over-diagnosis were not covered by this study.
For this massive project, the authors analyzed data from all randomized trials — both published and unpublished — of the 14 most common antidepressants. Efficacy of medication, how well subjects tolerated any side effects, whether subjects discontinued treatment for any reason, and risk of actual harm, such as suicidal thoughts, were all taken into account.