I feel I must share the following paper with you, it would be silly not to.
Dr David Healy has re-emerged on the Internet, a regularly updated blog, a website and a book [currently reading] have all got people talking.
It's good to see academics posting on the Internet on a regular basis, the more, the merrier, I say.
Healy's latest offering caught my attention, more so because it was a 'call for papers', an interaction, if you will.
"One of the purposes of this blog is to invite colleagues to add to the knowledge base on drug groups. To submit a paper or to provide your comments, please do so on the form on the Join the Conversation page.
"I’ll start the ball rolling with the following draft Data Based Medicine (DBM) papers:"
Two papers are then offered as downloads, one for 'takers' of antidepressants, the other for 'prescribers'. Not being a prescriber I chose to read the 'takers', a paper drawn up by Healy, Dr. Jo Lenoury and Dr. Dee Mangin.
It does not disappoint.
In a nutshell, it's everything you really wanted to know about antidepressants, if they actually work, if they are safe, if they cause severe withdrawal, birth defects and other adverse events. It's the paper that should have been drawn up by the regulators of the drugs you and I take, alas they were either too afraid to do it or it would have been frowned upon by the pharmaceutical industry, who fund the likes of the British drug regulator, the MHRA.
Healy not only asks the questions, he gives you the answers - no beating around the push with exemption laws or stonewalling - just straight answers.
Those, like myself, who have been banging the drum about antidepressant use won't be surprised by this paper, it pretty much echoes what we have been saying for years on various blogs, books and in the media.
The beauty of this paper is that it does not target one specific SSRi, it pretty much targets them all and Healy explains, in layman's terms, how these drugs are granted a licence, when in fact they shouldn't be. The whole issue of transparency in clinical trials is explained in simple, yet astute, terms and the Q&A section is a must read for anyone researching antidepressant medication, particularly if they have just been prescribed it by their healthcare physician.
Some key points from the paper that we should all ponder are:
- As of 2006, the trials that had been done for antidepressants involving over 100,000 patients showed more deaths in those on antidepressant than on placebo.
- There is some evidence that antidepressants may make future episodes of depression more likely.
- If you are chronically depressed, the treatments are more likely to give you side effects than do anything useful. In general for moderate depression, the drug is more likely to produce side effects than benefits. Many side effects are livable with but some could cost you your life, your marriage or your job.
- Many publications state that 5 out of 10 people respond to antidepressants and 4 out 10 respond to placebo, giving the impression that the effects of antidepressants are all in the mind.They aren't. What this data shows is that many of us get better without medication or therapy.
- Most people who are “depressed”, nervous or anxious, have a condition that clears up in 12-16 weeks whether treated or not.
Healy also explodes the myths about antidepressants and juxtaposes the company lines thrown out by pharmaceutical companies, key opinion leaders and regulators, the most striking of which is shown by the following:
Depression causes birth defects.
This is completely untrue but is used to scare women who are pregnant into taking antidepressants against their better judgment. Antidepressants increase rates of birth defects, miscarriages, and development delay in children.
Antidepressants take several weeks to work.
This is completely untrue. These drugs produce benefits and harms within hours or days of first taking them. It may take several weeks for a clinical syndrome to lift but this is something quite different. The argument that the drug takes time to work is trotted out as part of the defense against claims that an antidepressant has triggered suicide or violence.
Antidepressants do not cause Addiction
Many antidepressants cause people to be hooked to them – it becomes impossible to stop because of how bad the person feels on stopping and the relief from restarting treatment. Some drugs are worse than others. Because companies have denied there is any problem, it is difficult to know which drugs are the worst offenders and how to manage the problem. Companies and their experts refer to discontinuation syndromes – another term for withdrawal or being hooked – in attempt to avoid the stigma of withdrawal. But even national regulators now concede it may be impossible to stop certain antidepressants.
It's a paper that merits attention, it's a paper that is long overdue, it's a paper you should print off and show your doctor.
Kudos to Healy, Lenoury and Dee Mangin for getting it out there.
Paper can be downloaded as a PDF HERE.
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