Professor Peter Gøtzsche, Dr Joanna Moncrieff and Dr James Davies today responded to a letter sent to The Times last week by Professor David Nutt, Professor Sir Simon Wessely and other senior psychiatrists entitled ‘In defence of antidepressants’. The response is copied below and can be seen in The Times here; the original letter from Nutt & others is also below and can be found here.
Published at 5:51PM, May 6 2014
Sir, Further to the letter from Professor David Nutt and others, whatever the evidence on the efficacy of antidepressants – and the effects are weak even in severe depression – there is no doubt these drugs are being widely overprescribed, and not enough attention is being paid to the harms they can cause. We do not accept that reducing antidepressant prescribing will increase the number of suicides. Antidepressants have not been shown in reliable studies to reduce suicide, indeed they increase the risk of suicide in young people. There is also evidence that antidepressants may increase a whole range of adverse events in the elderly, including falls and fractures, and are associated with increased mortality.
Given these factors and the tendency of many psychiatrists to downplay the harms of overprescribing such medications, we invite Professor Nutt and his colleagues to a public debate where these views can be properly aired.
Professor Peter Gøtzsche, Nordic Cochrane Centre
Dr Joanna Moncrieff, University College London
Dr James Davies, University of Roehampton
Published at 12:01AM, May 2 2014
Sir, Depression can be a debilitating and lethal illness. Medication is a vital part of the treatment of the severest cases. Successful treatment with antidepressants definitely does not do “more harm than good” as you report (Apr 30).
We do not dispute that these drugs are of potentially less value for mild depression, but their effectiveness is maintained as the severity of the depression increases. Is that true of psychological treatment or exercise?
Depression is serious: 6,500 people commit suicide each year in the UK. Many of them are never offered antidepressants, and the blanket condemnation of antidepressants by Professor Peter Gøtzsche and colleagues will increase that proportion.
Professor David Nutt, Neuropsychopharmacology Unit, ICL
Professor Stephen Lawrie, Division of Psychiatry, Edinburgh
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Seena Fazel, University of Oxford
Professor Guy Goodwin, European College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Professor Dinesh Bhugra, World Psychiatric Association