Antidepressants: They’re not as effective as we’re told after researchers suppress the ‘bad’ studies
Sometimes poor results have been suppressed, while even those that have been published have claimed the drug is far more effective than the findings suggest, new research has discovered.
In virtually every case, the drug trial has been paid for by the manufacturer, researchers from Oregon Health and Science University found.
They analysed 74 separate trials into antidepressant drugs that had been registered with America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Of these, a third was never published, and this was usually because the study discovered the drug was either not effective or was more dangerous than first thought.
Of the trials that were published, 94 per cent of them came up with a positive outcome about the effectiveness of the drug, and yet the FDA’s independent analysis of the same trials concluded that just half were positive.
The FDA has issued more public warnings and black box notices – prominent announcements on the drug’s literature and patient information sheets – about the dangers of SSRIs than almost any other drug family. Although the drugs come with a vast array of adverse reactions, drug regulators are especially concerned by the SSRI’s potential to increase the risk of suicide.
The risk was thought to be greatest among adolescents and teenagers, but the FDA has admitted that anybody who takes an SSRI is at greater risk of committing suicide.
At an FDA drugs advisory committee meeting held in December, 2006, psychiatrist Dr David Healy told the members: “The idea that you would have a risk in one age group but not in another is just wrong.”
Another psychiatrist, Dr Peter Breggin, also testified, and said: “America’s drug watchdog needs to come clean because it’s been approving depressants as antidepressants. The primary data on suicidality has been generated in short-term controlled clinical trials planned by drug companies, carried out by drug company hacks, and evaluated by drug company employees at corporate headquarters. If that kind of carefully-cultivated evaluation bears such bad fruit, imagine what the real data must show.”
Despite these very real dangers, doctors continue to prescribe SSRIs to children. In one study, researchers discovered that children as young as six years were being prescribed an SSRI, and they were 52 per cent more likely to commit suicide within the following two months. Overall a child on an SSRI was 15 times more likely to commit suicide than one not taking the drug (Arch Gen Psych, 2006; 63: 865-72).
In addition to the suicide risk, SSRIs have been linked to a wide range of other adverse reactions. Prozac alone has 242 different side effects listed, including 34 problems of the genital and urinary tract. In one review of drug reactions, “during a 10-year period Prozac was associated with more hospitalizations, deaths or other serious adverse effects reported to the FDA than any other drug in America” (Moore, T: Prescription for Disaster. New York, Dell Publishing, 1998).
The most common problems associated with SSRIs are neurological (22 per cent), psychiatric (19.5 per cent), gastrointestinal (18 per cent) and dermatological (11.4 per cent) (Drug Safety, 1999; 20: 277-87).
Every SSRI manufacturer has lawsuits pending. Forest Laboratories, which makes Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) and Celexa (citalopram) has been involved in at least 25 active lawsuits recently, says US law firm Pogust & Braslow, and most of these involve cases of unexplained suicide or attempted suicide.