Antidepressants barely better than placebos

23 July 2005

From New Scientist.

IT’S time to ban antidepressants. They are no better than placebos and prevent people tackling the underlying causes of their depression. At least that’s the conclusion of the latest review of the evidence.

“People prescribed antidepressants are always going to think they can’t deal with problems themselves,” says Joanna Moncrieff of University College London. “We’re prescribing more antidepressants, but there’s no evidence they make people less depressed. We’re not stopping or reducing suicides, and nor are people increasingly getting back to work.”

In the British Medical Journal (vol 331, p 155), Moncrieff and Irving Kirsch of the University of Plymouth, UK, reviewed studies looking at the efficacy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and Seroxat. They conclude that antidepressants are scarcely better than placebos.

Moncrieff claims that by manipulating the data, it is possible to inflate a tiny statistical difference into an apparently large effect. She says SSRIs should not be the first-line treatment for moderate or severe depression.

Most experts disagree, however. “While there is the alternative of psychotherapy for milder depressions, the evidence still favours antidepressants for the more severe forms,” says Anthony Mann of London’s Institute of Psychiatry.

Printed on Tue Sep 06 15:21:43 BST 2005