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Antidepressants Useless In Many Cases?

Antidepressants may not be as effective as advertised.

A new British study suggests the drugs only help those who are severely depressed, and do little to help people suffering from mild depression, reports Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith.

She points out that more than 100 million prescriptions for antidepressants are written each year in the United States.

The research looked at 47 clinical trials, including data never that had never been made public before. The word on the trials had been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration during the drug approval process, but hadn't been published in medical journals.

The study's lead author, Irving Kirsch, Ph.D. of the University of Hull, got the info from the FDA using the Freedom of Information Act.

"Most patients," Kirsch says, "can benefit as much from other forms of treatment, such as physical exercise and psychotherapy, as they can from antidepressant medication.

" ... Research into the efficacy of medications is funded by the pharmaceutical companies that are going to profit from them and, as a result, some of the data that are less favorable to the medications just aren't published."

Drug industry reaction came from companies that included Glaxo SmithKline, which makes the antidepressant Paxil. It says, "The authors' interpretation is incorrect, and is clearly at odds with the benefits of antidepressants routinely observed in actual clinical practice."

And Columbia University researcher Kelly Posner says the new study doesn't address one of depression's WORST consequences: "Since we've had antidepressants, the suicide rate has dropped, across the world, reversing a trend prior to their introduction."

Posner says antidepressants have improved the lives of millions of people.

But, on The Early Show Wednesday, Charles Barber, author of the book "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation" told co-anchor Harry Smith the new study is "in line with some other work by other people looking at the FDA database that shows more sobering results for the antidepressants. (A researcher in Washington state) looked at 52 studies done by the FDA and found that, in 48 percent, the results were no better than placebos of the antidepressants. And there's a ... study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health ... that showed that antidepressants worked very well for about a-third of people. This is people with serious clinical depression (but not as well for others).

Antidepressants, Barber says, are "absolutely" over-prescribed: "The drugs can be absolutely wonderful for severe depression, for moderate depression. The farther that you get along that continuum, to milder depression or even conditions of life problems," (the less effective they are)."

Barber added that fish oil may actually help relieve mild forms of depression.

To read an excerpt of "Comfortably Numb," click here.