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David Healy’s depressing reflection on 25th anniversary of Prozac & SSRIs for depression

Psychiatrist-author David Healy blogs about “Prozac and SSRIs:  Twenty-fifth Anniversary.”

In his post, he touches on:

  • the phenomenal explosion in the use of antidepressants
  • suicides triggered by antidepressant use
  • birth defects and miscarriages from antidepressants used in pregnancy
  • “the dead doctor sketch” – what antidepressant prescribing has done to the practice of medicine and to cognitive behavioral therapy

He concludes the piece in this way:

Many see or saw psychiatry as a medical backwater with grim, overcrowded hospitals, and a dim understanding of the disorders it treats. In fact it was the first branch of medicine to have specialist hospitals and journals, the first to discover the bases for and eliminate several serious disorders, the first to adopt rating scales and controlled trials. And with Freud’s son-in-law, Edward Bernays, it was the first to step into public relations.

Twenty-five years ago, no one could have imagined that the bulk of the treatment literature would be ghostwritten, that negative trials could be portrayed as glowingly positive studies of a drug, that controlled trials could have been transformed into a gold-standard method to hide adverse events, or that dead bodies could have been hidden from medical academics so easily.  Twenty-five years ago no one would have believed that a drug less effective for nerves or melancholia than heroin, alcohol or older and cheaper antidepressants could have been brought on the market and that almost as a matter of national policy people would be encouraged to take it for life.

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Comments (2)

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David Hopkinson

February 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm

“The triumph of marketing over science”, according to one researcher, is what the popularity of SSRI anti-depressants represents. Dr. Healy, your book is not the first to reveal the duplicity of the pharmaceutical industry. At one time, selling placebos and misrepresenting their efficacy would have been a huge scandal. Isn’t the job of the FDA to deal with the marketing of placebos as anti-depressants in the US?