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Monday 23rd September 2019

Controversy over anti depressant pills

4th March 2008

Antidepressants such as Prozac and Paxil – among the most widely prescribed drugs on earth – are at the centre of a new controversy.


One recent report warned they do not help people much while another suggested they are a cheap way to save lives.

Most antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and boost serotonin in the brain to impact on people’s mood but there is evidence it can lead young people to act on suicidal thoughts.

A study from the University of Hull and published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine examined clinical trials for antidepressants, including those never published, and found that SSRIs were of little more help than placebos to people with depression.

Yet the PLoS paper has also come in for some criticism as a “mishmash of quality trials and lousy trials?.

However, another perspective is offered from a recent study published by America’s National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which examined data from 26 countries over several decades to determine what effect SSRIs have had on suicides.

It concluded that an increase in sales of one pill per person per year led to a decline in suicide mortality of about 5%.

The difference in viewpoints is likely to continue well into the future, although a third option is offered by Erick Turner of the Portland VA Medical Centre in Oregon.

While suggesting people should be more careful about using antidepressants, he suggests: “maybe all you need is a minor or mediocre effect in order to reduce suicides overall.?


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