A recent segment on 60 Minutes highlighted the question of whether antidepressants are actually more beneficial to depressed patients than other methods of treatments. The answer appears to be "no," except for the most severely depressed individuals.
Researchers are not contending that antidepressants like Zoloft, Paxil and other medications don't improve symptoms in depressed patients. These medications do help depressed patients feel better. The problem is, so do placebos (sugar pills with no active medicinal ingredients). When doctors and researchers began to realize that depressed patients treated with placebos had the same rate of improvement (and in some cases, improved sooner) as those taking strong antidepressant medications, they came to believe that the drugs (and all their potential side effects) might not be worth prescribing anymore.
The first person to uncover the evidence of the benefits of placebo treatments versus antidepressants was Dr. Irving Kirsch, now the Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard University. He first published a study in 1998, which, as a meta-analysis of previous anti-depressant related studies, revealed that 75% of patients taking the drugs were not helped more than their counterparts taking placebos. At the time of this particular study, Kirsch was not able to conclude whether the remaining 25% of patients were actually improving as a result of the active drug, or whether they were also experiencing a placebo effect, so he and others in the field continued to research the subject.
In a 2008 study published with five additional researchers, Kirsch modified his initial findings to conclude that while antidepressants' benefits over placebos were not clinically significant, those benefits might increase as the severity of the patient's depression increased. A 2010 study published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed Dr. Kirsch's 2008 findings: patients experiencing mild to moderate depression received no extra benefit from taking antidepressants instead of placebos. The only patients to experience substantial benefits from taking antidepressants were those individuals suffering from very severe depression.
Despite years of data showing the inefficacy of antidepressants for all but the most severely depressed individuals, the CDC reports that of 2.4 billion drugs prescribed in U.S. doctor and hospital visits, 118 million were for antidepressants, making them the single most prescribed class of drugs in the country. This fact is shocking considering the fact that antidepressants aren't even helping most of the patients taking them, and that they can have very serious side effects. Clearly, physicians and drug manufacturers are ignoring well-documented evidence in favor of profit margins and easy answers, regardless of the cost to patient health.
In fact, in an attempt to ensure the continued popularity of antidepressants, drug manufacturers have sponsored studies to prove that antidepressants actually are more effective than placebos in treating all ranges of depressed patients. Yet, even in the most recent drug study, sponsored by Cymbalta-manufacturer Eli Lilly and published in the December 2011 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers admitted that over 25% of patients being treated with the anti-depressant Cymbalta did no better than their counterparts taking placebos.
Antidepressants carry the risk of far too many serious side effects and far too few proven benefits to widely promote their use in the average patient population. If you or someone you love has been harmed by an antidepressant, or any other drug, you have the right to demand compensation for your injuries. The
medical injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin have a proven track record of standing up to large pharmaceutical companies and achieving results on behalf of wronged clients.
Contact a medical injury attorney from Arnold & Itkin today for a free and confidential consultation regarding your case.