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What is the effectiveness of antidepressants?
There have been long discussions about the effectiveness of drug treatment for acute depression in adults. Researchers have now found that all commonly prescribed antidepressants were more effective than a placebo. However, some of these drugs worked significantly more effectively than other antidepressants.
The study by the internationally renowned University of Oxford found that commonly prescribed antidepressants are very effective in treating acute depression. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "The Lancet".
Studies included almost 120,000 subjects
The researchers wanted to resolve the uncertainties about the effectiveness of the drugs in the treatment of acute depression. After carefully reviewing previous studies with nearly 120,000 adult subjects, including patients taking 21 commonly prescribed antidepressants, the researchers found that all of the drugs tested had a better effect than the placebo effect. In a further analysis of more than 500 studies, however, the doctors were able to observe that there were differences in the effectiveness of the drugs.
Depression needs to be treated properly
Many people need better access to treating depression, the researchers explain. This could be done either with medication or psychotherapy. If depression is not treated at all or is treated inadequately, this leads to major problems - doctors and sufferers should be aware of this, explains Dr. Andrea Cipriani from the University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry.
Which drugs were more effective?
Among the drugs that proved to be more effective were amitriptyline, mirtazapine and sertraline, while fluoxetine, better known as Prozac, was considered one of the least effective drugs, the experts explain. The findings should serve evidence-based practice and inform patients, doctors, guideline developers, and policy makers about the relative benefits of the various antidepressants, the researchers said.
300 million people suffer from depression
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. The results now published refute the claims that antidepressants are ineffective in treating those affected. The meta-analysis conducted should end the controversy about antidepressants because it clearly shows that these drugs raise mood and help most people with depression, the researchers emphasize.
Prescription of antidepressants is increasing
Digital statistics from the NHS showed last year that prescriptions for antidepressants in the UK rose from 59.5 million to almost 63.6 million between October 2015 and September 2016. Other common treatments for depression include psychotherapeutic methods such as cognitive behavior therapy and counseling. It is likely that at least a million more people a year should have access to effective treatment for depression, either through medication or psychotherapy, says Professor John Geddes of the University of Oxford. The doctor must then make the appropriate selection together with the patient.
Patients and doctors should decide together
The decision to prescribe an antidepressant should always be a common procedure between patients and doctors that is tailored to the specific needs of the person. By clarifying which antidepressants work most effectively, this decision will be easier for doctors and those affected in the future.
For which patients are the results relevant?
“Our study brings together the best knowledge available to inform and guide doctors and patients in their treatment decisions. We found that the most commonly used antidepressants are more effective than placebo, with some being more effective than others. Our results are relevant for adults who experience a first or second depressive episode, ”summarizes study author Dr. Andrea Cipriani in a press release. (as)