New York Times Magazine Examines Debate Over Use of Antidepressants in Children
The cover story of the New York Times Magazine on Sunday examined the debate surrounding the use of antidepressants in children (Mahler, New York Times Magazine, 11/21). In October, FDA ordered pharmaceutical companies that manufacture antidepressants to add black box warnings to drug packaging, advising consumers that the drugs could cause suicidal thoughts and actions in people younger than 18 years old. FDA officials said that an analysis of 15 clinical trials -- some of which were not made public for years -- found that there is a "consistent link" between the use of any kind of antidepressant and suicidal tendencies in children (California Healthline, 10/18).
The Times Magazine profiles Mark and Cheryl Miller, whose 13-year-old son Matt committed suicide in 1997 within a week of starting treatment for depression with Pfizer's Zoloft. The Millers filed suit against Pfizer, but the case was dismissed, and the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. The Times Magazine reports that in treating adolescents for depression, it is "difficult to determine where the effects of depression en[d] and the effects of the drug beg[in]," also noting that some "child psychiatrists ... seem to think FDA overreached" in applying a black box warning because many teenagers show improvement with the therapy. "FDA was essentially forced to strike a balance between the cost of the few and the good of the many," according to the Times Magazine (New York Times Magazine, 11/21).