Gill Stannard

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How effective are SSRIs? Not as good as you think!

A new study looking at the effectiveness of common antidepressant drugs has found them lacking. Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration was coauthored internationally, analyzing study data submitted to the FDA including previously unpublished data obtained under Freedom of Information rules. This makes it the first meta-analysis of an unbiased range of research on the efficacy of 3 common SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) drugs: Prozac, Efexor and Aropax .

The findings of the new study do not paint the same optimistic picture as the companies producing these drugs would like us to believe and through statistical analysis concluded that those people who were severely depressed did not respond as well to the medication as previously reported. In fact the study concluded:
“Meta-analyses of antidepressant medications have reported only modest benefits over placebo treatment, and when unpublished trial data are included, the benefit falls below accepted criteria for clinical significance.“

This study also highlights an ongoing issue with predominantly pharmaceutical industry funded research – the non-inclusion of all trials when the drug is submitted for approval (eg: to the FDA in the USA) and in cases such as this where there is post-market research, reassessment of efficacy once the drug has been approved. This is a problem that has dogged medical research for years.

The meta-analysis looked only at drug efficacy, not adverse reactions or other issues that many patients have with taking SSRIs.

Herbal alternatives to SSRI’s: St Johns wort – suitable if not on other medications including ‘the pill’ and other hormonal drugs. Most studies have found it works as well as SSRI’s and with fewer side effects. Lavender and hops are also popular alternatives.

A lifestyle and spiritual approach to wellbeing is covered in the show on raising our spirits.

While you are here, don’t forget to offer a comment on the happiness thread.

Update: The Independent featured a particularly good response.

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