Talking Back to Prozac

TALKING BACK TO PROZAC….A new meta-study conducted by Irving Kirsch of Hull University and five American and Canadian researchers has concluded that Prozac and other antidepressants in the SSRI family are essentially worthless. Compared to a placebo, they improved patients’ scores on the most widely used depression scale by only 1.8 points:

The review breaks new ground because Kirsch and his colleagues have obtained for the first time what they believe is a full set of trial data for four antidepressants.

They requested the full data under freedom of information rules from the Food and Drug Administration, which licenses medicines in the US and requires all data when it makes a decision.

The pattern they saw from the trial results of fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Seroxat), venlafaxine (Effexor) and nefazodone (Serzone) was consistent. “Using complete data sets (including unpublished data) and a substantially larger data set of this type than has been previously reported, we find the overall effect of new-generation antidepressant medication is below recommended criteria for clinical significance,” they write.

The complete study is here. I have no particular opinion about the quality of this study, and not really any special interest in SSRIs either. In fact, what really drew my attention was the range of news outlets that reported this news. According to Google News, here they are: the Guardian, the Independent, the London Times, the Telegraph, the BBC, Sky News, the Evening Standard, the Herald, the Financial Times, and the Daily Mail. In fact, it’s getting big play from most of these folks, including screaming front page treatment from some.

So what’s the deal? Why is this huge news in Britain, where most of the stories are making great hay out of the amount of taxpayer money the NHS is squandering on these drugs, and completely ignored here in the U.S.? The conspiracy theory version of the answer is obvious, but what’s the real version? Do American newspaper editors universally know something that I (and their British colleagues) don’t?

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