Depressed About Antidepressants

DEPRESSED ABOUT ANTIDEPRESSANTS?….For some reason, I was fascinated by the different leads written today about the government’s recent antidepressant study. Here’s how the three biggest dailies reported it, starting with the most pessimistic and working upward:

  • Washington Post: “Antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients with the disease even if they receive the best possible care, according to a definitive government study released yesterday.”

  • New York Times: “Some people with depression who do not recover with an initial course of antidepressant therapy can increase their chances of finding relief by trying other drug treatments, researchers are reporting today.”

  • Los Angeles Times: “In the long and frustrating battle against depression, persistence does pay.”

To Shankar Vedantam of the Washington Post, a 50% success rate is a gloomy result (though he admits that this is “a result that quickly lent itself to interpretations that the glass was either half empty or half full.”) To Thomas H. Maugh II of the LA Times, it’s apparently cause for hope.

But 50% doesn’t sound too bad to me. If these results hold up, and fiddling around with various antidepressants really has strong positive results in half or more of the patients, that’s pretty good news, isn’t it? I’m a little surprised that the news reports have been so ambivalent.