Slippery Ground: SSRI-Study Fallout Spreads

The ripples from the PLOS Medicine antidepressants-don't-work study by Kirsch et alia, which I covered below, just keep spreading. Those who want to follow it can do well by visiting or bookmarking this search I did (an ingenious Google News search for "Kirsch SSRI"). It seems to be tracking the press coverage pretty well. Note that the heavier and higher-profile coverage comes mainly from UK. As far as I can tell, none of the top 3 or 4 US papers have yet covered it.

This blog search should help as well.

Some of the more notable responses since yesterday:

Science weighs in. The Times Online (UK), with a hat top to SSRI as antidepressant, opines that "If it's all in the mind, fine."

The searches above will find more.

As many have noted, that antidepressants barely best placebo is not big big news; other studies have found that the drugs barely best placebo. But the starkness of Kirsch's "no effect" finding -- and the paper's assertion that there seems no reason to prescribe except for the deeply, dangerously depressed -- seems to have sparked a deeper examination of this issue than previous studies have. The anguish you see in many posts and comments, especially by doctors and depression sufferers, is that of an entire discipline and patient base having to confront the profound ambivalence of the data and the plain wierdness of the way in which psychiatric drugs work. Many drugs depend heavily on a placebo effect, of course. But the mind-body mystery raised by placebo effects in antidepressants presses itself more insistently, since "the body" doesn't seem so much in play.

This is slippery territory; not surprising that many are having trouble finding their footing.

More like this

A quick heads-up: Nature weighs in on the flap over the Kirsch SSRI study that found antidepressants no more effective than placebo. I've given a lot of attention to the placebo issue. Nature stresses another point: That the Kirsch study underscores the need for clinical trial data to be public. At…
[This is a revised, expanded version of the original heads-up I put up last night.] A large new meta-analysis of SSRI antidepressant trials concludes that the drugs have essentially no therapeutic effect at all. The study, in PLOS Medicine today, comes on the heels of another study published a few…
Another study purports to find that, for most people, Prozac and the other members of the antidepressant family of pharmaceuticals are no better than sugar pills. Expect Big Pharma to object, but not too loudly. At least, don't expect them to expend too much effort and money denouncing the findings…
Sharon Begley has an excellent Newsweek cover story on the rise and fall of anti-depressant medications, or how a class of drugs that were once hailed as medical miracles are now seen as barely better than placebos: In just over half of the published and unpublished studies, Kirsch and colleagues…