Unpublished Trials Reveal Antidepressant Provides Little Benefit For Depression or Anxiety

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Upon reviewing all of GlaxoSmithKline’s data from both published and unpublished trials of the antidepressant paroxetine, researchers found the drug provided almost no benefits over placebo for either depression or anxiety, according to a study in PLOS One.

The Wayne State University researchers, in collaboration with Harvard’s Irving Kirsch, stated that evaluating the efficacy of antidepressant medications on depression and anxiety has until now been hampered by a lack of access to pharmaceutical companies’ unpublished trials. “Here, for the first time, we assess the efficacy of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) in the treatment of both anxiety and depression, using a complete data set of all published and unpublished trials sponsored by the manufacturer.”

They found that the published literature tended to overestimate the efficacy of the drug, and overall the drug provided tiny benefits of only 2-3 points on common rating scales for depression and anxiety — much of which was due to placebo effects. “The available empirical evidence indicates that paroxetine provides only a modest advantage over placebo in treatment of anxiety and depression,” they wrote. “We demonstrated that individuals given placebo exhibited 79% of the magnitude of change compared to paroxetine.”

“These findings have important clinical implications,” the researchers commented. “The obvious alternative for the treatment of both anxiety and depression is psychotherapy intervention. However, direct comparisons of acute phase treatment for pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in the treatment of major depression generally have yielded no significant differences between the treatment modalities. Fewer clinical trials have directly compared antidepressants and psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders, although the available literature indicates similar comparability between antidepressants and psychotherapy.”

The Efficacy of Paroxetine and Placebo in Treating Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analysis of Change on the Hamilton Rating Scales (Sugarman, Michael A. et al. PLOS One. August 27, 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106337)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, the justice system, and social change. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, nine Western Magazine Awards, and five Webster Awards for journalism. He is currently working on a book about people's experiences of forced psychiatric treatment, and can be contacted through his website.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, so the trials Glaxo published show the drugs might work, but the trials they didn’t publish show the drugs don’t work ?

    Funny that.

    But why are those responsible not accountable ? Imagine if the penalty for getting caught commiting any crime was that the perpetrator simply had to promise not to do it again.

  2. I wish I’d found this website, or something – some kind of literature – in time. I was lied to, and drugged, with what I now realize was so a huge amount and variety of psychiatric drugs that I’m astonished I can still form a sentence (but in many ways I realize I am horribly impaired), for 40+ years. Plus ECT. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, benzos, amphetamines… just a never ending trail of drugs. I didn’t know about akathisia. I’d never heard of it. The cycle went on for so long adding drugs, my functioning would get worse, I’d land in the psych ward, I’d be called non compliant, and other names, more drugs, more drugs. I’m 54 now, have been on SSDI for 10 years, and am literally completely alone in the world. I’ve lost everything including my health. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. The immense cruelty of psychiatry is astounding.

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