A new study by researchers from Denmark and the United Kingdom, who have studied antidepressant drugs and their effects, have found that the drugs indeed push people to commit suicide, especially children.
The study is said to be the biggest ever to have been conducted on antidepressant drugs. The British Medical Journal has endorsed the findings of the study in its editorial column.
In the past, people have claimed that antidepressant medication drove their loved ones to commit suicide. However, these claims have been continually dismissed by medical companies and doctors who argue that there is no link between people committing suicide and the drugs.
These claims and counter-claims motivated some researchers to study the phenomenon in order to determine whether the drugs can indeed make people commit suicide.
Researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Centre and the University College London analyzed 70 trials of the most common antidepressants. The drugs reviewed were duloxetine; fluoxetine, which is also known as Prozac; paroxetine; sertraline and venlafaxine, which belong to two classes; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors antidepressants (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
The researchers revealed that more than 18,000 people took part in the trials of these drugs. According to the researchers, they found that the drugs double the risk of suicide and aggressive behavior in people who are under the age of 18. Although a similar link was not seen in adults, the authors said misreporting of trial data could have led to a ‘serious under-estimation of the harms.’
The study therefore fingered pharmaceutical companies for failing to report side-effects and even deaths linked to the drugs. After comparing clinical trial information to actual patient reports, the researchers clearly found pharmaceutical companies had regularly misclassified deaths and suicidal events in people taking antidepressants, to favor their products.
Observers who looked at the findings of the study said it is deeply worrying, disturbing even, that the clinical trials were deliberately misreported by the pharmaceutical companies.
Telegraph reports that in the United Kingdom, the study looked at the five most common drugs prescribed for depression, including Prozac. It analyzed the published summary reports provided by pharmaceutical companies to drugs regulators and compared it with the raw data from clinical trials.
Four deaths were misreported by one unnamed pharmaceutical company, who claimed they had occurred after the trials had stopped. One patient strangled himself unexpectedly after taking venlafaxine, but because he survived for five days, he was excluded from the results because it was claimed he was no longer on the trial while he was dying in hospital from the self-inflicted injuries.
More than half of the suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts had been mis-recorded as emotional instability, or worsening of depression. In summary trial reports from the drugs giant Eli Lilly, suicidal attempts were missing in 90% of cases, the study found.
Lead author of the study from the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Professor Peter Gøtzsche said “Antidepressants don’t work in children, that is pretty clear, in the randomized trials children say that they don’t work for them, but they increase their risk of suicide.”
Dr Joanna Moncrieff from University College London also said that “People in the United Kingdom are consuming more than four times as many antidepressants as they did two decades ago. Despite this, we still do not fully understand the effects of these drugs.”
The study concluded that before the drugs are given to children and young adults, they should first be given exercise and psychotherapy.
A man from the United Kingdom, whose son committed suicide after taking Citalopram, has been monitoring suicides related to antidepressant medication for the last three years. He has set up an anonymous campaigning website AntiDepAware.
He added his voice to the study, revealing that this month, there have been at least 35 inquests with deaths linked to antidepressants. Last year, he recorded more than 450 deaths linked to antidepressants.
Statistics show that the United Kingdom has the seventh highest prescribing rate for antidepressants in the Western world. About four million British citizens consume the drugs each year, giving the pharmaceutical companies more than £200 million each year.
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