Their study which examined 120,000 people in more than 500 trials across three decades concluded emphatically that antidepressants do work
22 February, 2018, 15:23
A vast research study that sought to settle a long-standing debate about whether or not anti-depressant drugs really work has found they are indeed effective in relieving acute depression in adults. The study includes the largest amount of unpublished data to date, and all the data from the study have been made freely available online.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chairman of the Royal College of Global Positioning System, said: "This research should reassure patients who are taking or are contemplating commencing antidepressants, and the doctors that prescribe them, that they are an effective treatment for depression in the short-term".
The drug was discovered in the 1950s, and is also used for migraine and chronic pain relief.
'Medication should always be cnsidered alongside other options, such as psychological therapies, where these are available'.
Research leader Andrea Cipriani of Oxford University struck a note of caution, warning that antidepressants will not work for everyone.
Depression affects around 300million people across the world, according to the World Health Organisation. The economic burden in the US alone has been estimated to be more than $210 billion. However, there is considerable debate about their effectiveness.
The study was recently published in The Lancet.
The primary outcomes were efficacy (number of patients who responded to treatment, i.e. who had a reduction in depressive symptoms of 50% or more on a validated rating scale over 8 weeks) and acceptability (proportion of patients who withdrew from the study for any reason by week 8). The majority of patients had moderate-to-severe depression.
Some antidepressants were more effective than others, with agomelatine, amitriptyline, escitalopram, mirtazapine, paroxetine, venlafaxine, and vortioxetine proving most effective, and fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, reboxetine, and trazodone being the least effective.
Talking therapies are thought to be about as effective as antidepressant medication, but these are often much more expensive.
Drugs ranged from more than one third more effective than a placebo to more than twice as effective.
Professor John Geddes, Oxford's head of psychiatry, said: 'This isn't just a bit of common unhappiness, this is a major mental health problem that really is devastating for an bad lot of human lives.
409 (78%) of 522 trials were funded by pharmaceutical companies, and the authors retrieved unpublished information for 274 (52%) of the trials included in the meta-analysis.
The researchers looked at the effectiveness of 21 antidepressants.
James Warner, an Imperial College London psychiatrist, added: "Depression causes misery to countless thousands every year and this study adds to the existing evidence that effective treatments are available".
Professor Hopwood said many Australians still remain unconvinced about the potential benefits of antidepressants. "Nevertheless, for the millions of individuals with depression who are taking antidepressants at present, or will need to take antidepressants in the future, it confirms that these drugs are safe and effective".
The results? All the antidepressants proved better at treating depression - lessening its symptoms, more specifically - over time compared with placebo. The findings are not applicable to people with treatment-resistant depression.