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Antidepressants are not effective says Peter Gotzsche, MD
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 2:22 pm Email this article
Antidepressants have been found to have very little effect when compared to an active placebo—a placebo which causes dry mouth so that neither the patients nor the researchers can guess who is getting the real drug—notes Prof. Peter Gøtzsche, MD.
He notes that the effect of the real antidepressants—tricyclic antidepressants in these trials—found a difference of only 1.3 points on the Hamilton Depression Scale, but the smallest effect that can be perceived is 5-6 points.
[Note: Studies show that serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSIR’s) are no more effective than tricyclic antidepressants.]
[For example, a meta-analysis published in 2000 which compared the efficacy of these two classes of drugs concluded that “There is no overall difference in efficacy between SSRIs and TCAs [tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline].”]
Patients improve by the same amount naturally within a few days
Dr. Gøtzsche also notes that other antidepressant studies have found that it only takes a few days longer for the placebo group to improve by 1.3 points on the Hamilton Depression Scale which is simply the spontaneous remission of the disease.
In other words, antidepressants have very little effect and most of the improvement that people experience over time is simply the natural, spontaneous remission of the depression.
I realized this in 1994 when my mother was told to take an antidepressant for two months to see if it was going to work, followed by another antidepressant for two months, followed by another antidepressant.
At the time I thought how incredibly ineffective these drugs must be if it takes two months for them to have an effect.
Below is a quote of exactly what Dr. Gøtzsche wrote.
Antidepressants improve depression scores by only 1.3 points
“A Cochrane review of tricyclic antidepressants included only trials that had atropine in the placebo to prevent unblinding because of the conspicuous side effects of the drugs.
[Atropine causes dry mouth as do tricyclic antidepressants. This was done so that the patients and the researchers could not guess who was on the drug.]
“This review did not find any meaningful effect; the effect corresponded to only 1.3 points on the Hamilton scale, and the smallest effect that can be perceived is 5-6 points,” writes Dr. Gøtzsche.
Patients given a placebo improve by 1.3 points within a few days
“A meta-analysis of trials of fluoxetine [Prozac] and venlafaxine [Effexor] in severe depression showed that it takes only a few days longer before the Hamilton score in the placebo group drops by an additional 1.3 points.
“Thus, if we wait a few days, we would get the same result if taking a placebo, or if the patients weren’t treated at all, because what we see in a placebo group is not a placebo effect but mainly the spontaneous remission of the disease.
“The modest observed effect of antidepressants on anxiety can also be explained by unblinding bias because it is similar to that reported for depression.”
About Dr. Gøtzsche
Dr. Gøtzsche is the author of several wonderful books including Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial in which he talks about the problems with psychiatric drugs.
He is also author of the wonderful book Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare.
Dr. Gøtzsche also cofounded the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993, which is a group of scientists around the world who analyze data to try and figure out the truth about drugs and other health topics.
My mother suffered tragically from psychiatric drugs
My mother suffered tragically from psychiatric drugs and died 5-10 years prematurely because of these drugs, so this topic is of great interest to me.
This article was originally published on August 3, 2016, but a new video clip of Dr. Gøtzsche speaking has been added.
Gotzsche PC, Young AH, and Crace J. Does long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good? BMJ, 2015 May 12; 350: h2435.
The paper is available for free here.
Author’s Contact Info
Peter C. Gøtzsche, MD
Alan H. Young, MD
Other articles about Prof. Peter Gotzsche, MD
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