There’s no doubt that since the introduction of SSRI antidepressants in the 1980s suicide rates have dropped significantly. However, three large review studies have shown that these types of antidepressants appear to work only in the severest forms of depression – and then only some of the time. Even more shocking – for mild, moderate, and even severe depression, they work no better than sugar pills. According to the latest study, published January 6, 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “True drug effects… were nonexistent to negligible among depressed patients with mild, moderate, and even severe baseline symptoms…” The researchers, from the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, examined six studies randomly selected from the FDA’s database.
A 2008 review of previous research uncovered via the Freedom of Information Act determined that four of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, worked no better than sugar pills for mild to moderate depression. For the study, researchers analyzed 47 clinical studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies that were never released. It included studies submitted to the FDA during the drug approval process, but not published in medical journals. The review found that the drugs were only effective for the most severely depressed patients. In people with lower levels of depression, the results of the antidepressants were quite modest or disappeared entirely.
Other studies have had similar findings. In a 2002 Washington State study, investigators looked at 52 studies of antidepressants in the FDA’s database and determined that in 48% of the studies the results were no better than placebo. They also concluded that antidepressants were only more effective that sugar pills with the severest forms of depression. Based on this evidence, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, represent a viable option for patients that are not be helped by antidepressants.