This news story was in most of the national newspapers on 26th February 2008: Maybe the glory days for the pharmaceutical industry are numbered... But beware they are a resourceful bunch. The story is: Research indicating that new-generation anti-depressants work no better than dummy pills was seized upon as evidence that doctors are over-prescribing. Mental health campaigners said millions of people with depression were not getting sufficient access to talking therapies self help groups and other holistic approaches due to GPs being over reliant on prescribing drugs such as Prozac.
It follows a review of clinical trials that found that such drugs had no more effect than a placebo for mildly depressed patients and for most people suffering severe depression. The study showed that even trials suggesting benefit for severely depressed people did not provide evidence of clear clinical benefit, researchers said. Dr Tim Kendall, deputy director of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Research Unit, said the findings were "fantastically important". A group of experts, led by Professor Irving Kirsch, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull, analysed 47 clinical trials using data released under Freedom of Information rules by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The researchers looked at four commonly-used anti-depressants and the clinical trials submitted to gain licensing approval.They included antidepressants regularly prescribed in the UK, including fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Efexor) and paroxetine (Seroxat). They found little evidence of benefit when analysing both unpublished and published data from the drug companies. Furthermore, the seemingly good results for very severely depressed patients came from the fact a patient's response to the dummy pill decreased rather than any notable increase in their response to antidepressants.