THE INDEPENDENT: They are among the biggest-selling drugs of all time, the “happiness pills” that supposedly lift the moods of those who suffer depression and are taken by millions of people in the UK every year. But one of the largest studies of modern antidepressant drugs has found that they have no clinically significant effect. In other words, they don’t work.
The finding will send shock waves through the medical profession and patients and raises serious questions about the regulation of the multinational pharmaceutical industry, which was accused yesterday of withholding data on the drugs. The publication in 1994 of Listening to Prozac by Peter Kramer, in which he suggested anyone with too little “joy juice” might give themselves a dose of the “mood brightener” Prozac, lifted sales into the stratosphere.
In the UK, an estimated 3.5 million people take the drugs, collectively known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), in any one year and 29 million prescriptions were issued in 2004. Prozac, the best known of the SSRIs made by Eli Lilly, was the world’s fastest-selling drug until it was overtaken by Viagra.
In the study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of all 47 clinical trials, published and unpublished, submitted to the Food and Drug Administration in the US, made in support of licensing applications for six of the best known antidepressant drugs, including Prozac, Seroxat – which is made by GlaxoSmithKline – and Efexor made by Wyeth. The results showed the drugs were effective only in a very small group of the most extremely depressed. MORE