A new British study suggested that antidepressants may not be as effective as believed because they appear to help only severely depressed people and work no better than placebos in many patients.
"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," said lead researcher Irving Kirsch, professor of psychology at the University of Hull as quoted by media reports Wednesday.
"This means that depressed people can improve without chemical treatments," he added.
The study data was collected on 35 clinical trials of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. The results showed that the drugs had no significant improvements in depression in patients who initially had moderate or even severe depression.
"Medication helps some, but not all, people with depression," Dr. Nada Stotland, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association said. "For people with mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy can work as well as medication."
The new study results suggested that antidepressants are overprescribed now so that treatment for depression needs to be tailored to an individual and more long-term follow-up trials are needed to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from specific therapies.
"That will be an enormous advance for the millions of people suffering from this very painful and potentially disabling disease," Stotland said.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2008)