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Only Severely Depressed Benefit From Antidepressants: Study
Date:2/27/2008

But some mental-health experts dispute the findings

TUESDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- While popular antidepressants such as Prozac are widely prescribed for people with varying degrees of depression, the drugs are only effective for those with the most severe depression, a new study suggests.

"Although patients get better when they take antidepressants, they also get better when they take a placebo, and the difference in improvement is not very great," lead researcher Irving Kirsch, a professor of psychology at the University of Hull in Great Britain, said in a prepared statement. "This means that depressed people can improve without chemical treatments," he added.

In the study, Kirsch and his colleagues collected data on 35 clinical trials of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, whose results had been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The antidepressants included in the trials were fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Effexor), nefazodone (Serzone), and paroxetine (Seroxat/Paxil).

An analysis of the data showed that patients taking antidepressants fared no better than patients receiving a placebo. This appeared to be the case whether the patients were mildly or moderately depressed.

The drugs only seemed to benefit a small group of patients -- those with the severest depression when the study began.

Based on these results, there appears to be little reason to prescribe these antidepressants to anyone but the most severely depressed patients, the study authors concluded.

The findings were published online Feb. 25 in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Dr. Nada Stotland, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association, said she wasn't surprised that the study found that not every antidepressant works for every patient. Many people who are depressed don't respond to the first antidepressant they try. It can take up to an averag
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