Doctors Urged To Consider Other Depression Treatments Amid Declining Efficacy Of Antidepressant Medications


Medical scientists in Australia have discovered that the use of antidepressants in the country has doubled over the past decade and a half despite evidence suggesting that these medications are not as effective as they were once thought to be.

In a study featured in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers at the Orygen, National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health examined data from various studies including those of previously unpublished drug trials conducted by pharma companies in different parts of the world.

The team found that taking antidepressant medications alone was not able to help as much as 40 percent of patients who needed them. This was particularly seen among young people who were given the drugs instead of placebo.

About one in every 112 young patients treated with antidepressants had suicidal thoughts and experienced certain behaviors that they wouldn't normally have on the placebo treatment.

"The use of antidepressants has continued to rise despite accumulating evidence that they are not as effective as was previously thought," the authors of the study said.

The researchers underscored how the pharmaceutical industry was able to influence findings on the effect sizes of antidepressants. This was done in part by publishing only positive drug trial results as well as by substituting unclear findings with more positive ones.

The discovery of such practices is what the authors of the study believe helped tarnished the reputation of antidepressant drugs and even the pharma companies that produce and market them.

The recent study suggests that drop in the efficacy of antidepressants is likely caused by an increase in the rate of placebo response, especially among young patients. The number of placebo responding patients has steadily increased over the last two decades even though researchers have yet to clearly understand the nature of such a phenomenon.

Lead author Dr. Christopher Davey pointed out that antidepressants still play an important part in treating people suffering from moderate to severe forms of depression. However, he recommends that these medications should be prescribed to patients as just one part of a treatment plan that includes lifestyle strategies and psychotherapy in order to produce positive outcomes.

Davey explained that they are not recommending that patients should stop taking antidepressant medications, or that such drugs are being prescribed by doctors too much. They wanted to point out that people are using these medications by themselves too often without considering other necessary components to the treatment.

Photo: Steve Snodgrass | Flickr 

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