A comprehensive review, which has sifted through data from 70 trials of the most popular drugs for the treatment of depression, shows that antidepressants may up risk of suicide, aggression. Study authors also found that big pharmas often fail to report critical side-effects of their products along with drug-related deaths.
The review found that antidepressants may make underage patients more prone to adopt an aggressive behavior. Still, no such side-effect was found in adults, though researchers suspect that some trial data may be misreported.
Nevertheless, researchers have suspected for years that antidepressants may boost risk of suicide as families have often complained that the drugs were behind their loved ones’ tragic end. But antidepressant makers and doctors have dismissed such claims because no comprehensive study has ever found a link between the two.
The research review which comprises data on more than 18,000 patients is considered the largest to date. It was carried out by a team at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Denmark, and reviewed by University College London in the U.K.
After analyzing trial data and comparing it to reports submitted by families of people who committed suicide, researchers found that the companies who funded the trials have often misclassified the deaths to their products’ benefit.
Study authors were startled and ‘deeply worried’ by the unprecedented situation.
“It is absolutely horrendous that they have such disregard for human lives.”
said Prof. Peter Gotzsche, lead author of the research and mental heart expert with the Copenhagen-based Nordic Cochrane Center.
In the U.S., antidepressant use saw a tremendous rise in just two decades. Currently, one in ten people take antidepressants on prescription, while one in four middle-aged women take the drugs.
But this doesn’t mean that the U.S. was hit by a tidal wave of depression in recent years. In fact, doctors often prescribe the drugs for off-label uses such as dependence, ADHD and autism in children, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Nordic Cochrane Centre researchers found that at least four deaths by suicide were misreported by a pharmaceutical company. In one case, a patient tried to kill himself after taking venlafaxine, but since he died days later in a hospital his death was no longer considered to having occured during the trial. Suicidal attempts were often mislabeled as a sign of either emotional instability or depression.
The review also found that though antidepressants do not seem to work on children they do boost their risk of suicide. This is why, study authors believe that it is better to follow alternative courses of actions including psychotherapy, art therapy, and exercise before resorting to medications.
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