Scared To Death

  • by: |
  • 07/03/2007
While we are on the subject of the Fear Factory (leftist academics, medical journals and journalists) the grudging coverage of the safety of anti-depressants and their value in reducing suicide should be noted. Last week it was the NEJM deciding to publish slowly and silently a study that pregnant women could use antidepressants will little risk to their infants and a media that barely reported the results. This week it was yet another large and careful observational study -- this time by Greg Simon from Group Heath of Puget Sound -- showing that far from causing suicide, antidepressants actually reduce the risk thereof.

Setting aside the abject coverage of these important studies, the attack on the safety of SSRIs needs to be re-examined from top to bottom. We have been told that for marketing purposes companies have buried the real dangers of drugs, that direct to consumer advertising pushes people to take medicines that they do not need but are unsafe, that industry sponsored research and medical conferences are corrupting and not informative.

But now the results of following the purists are clear. We did follow the sage counsel of the Jerry Avorns, Sid Wolfes, Marcia Angells, David Healys and Jerome Kassirers of the world. We ignored the studies showing clinical benefit of SSRIs and embraced their distrustful view of medicine which was based not on science but on the belief thata because drug companies are commercial enterprises neither their products or information cannot be trusted and that any relationship they enter into corrupts those who engage in them.

We have seen the results with SSRIs. The blog PurePedantry does an excellent job of laying out the human consequences of following a medical regimen “free” of industry involvement. They cite another article in the American Journal of Psychiatry that looked at the trends in the number of kids getting SSRIs in the wake of creating an industry free zone: A more sobering perspective on these data gives cause for concern.

An article -- also in the American Journal of Psychiatry - traced what happened to prescribing of SSRIs after the fear mongering and linked it to suicide rates:

"Pharmacoepidemiological studies examining the relationship between trends in sales or prescription fills of SSRIs have consistently shown a relationship between increases in SSRI prescription rates and declines in adolescent suicide rates. On the basis of those studies, one might expect that the adolescent suicide rate would begin increasing in the wake of the FDA advisory after a decade of steady decline."

Less marketing, less detailing, less CME. More regulation and warnings. But the void is filled by self promoting quacks like Gary Null, Scientology fronts, trial lawyers, and angry critics who use anecdotal material to rant about corporate influence. And the result? Fewer patients and more death. It happened with depression and it is happening with schizophrenia and manic depression. We need more corporate involvement, not less, to advance the public health and save lives.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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