Two Newspapers Examine Recent Issues Surrounding Antidepressants
Two newspapers on Monday published articles on issues related to antidepressants. Summaries appear below.
Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles Times examined the "growing number" of parents and physicians who appear "increasingly uneasy" about antidepressant use among children. In 2004, the number of antidepressants prescribed to children younger than age 18 decreased by 10%, according to data from Medco Health Solutions. FDA last October required pharmaceutical companies to place a black box warning on serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- a class of antidepressants that includes Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil -- after studies linked the medications to increased risk for suicidal behavior among children. Some health officials have raised concerns that the public has overreacted to the black box warning, and mental health organizations in response have published new brochures and have included more information about treatment for childhood depression on their Web sites. David Fassler, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and spokesperson for the American Psychiatric Association, said, "I do worry that some parents may be frightened and confused by the numerous media reports and may be reluctant to seek help for their children with psychiatric disorders. There are very significant risks of not treating an illness like depression." Researchers have conducted few long-term studies on the safety and effectiveness of SSRIs that could help parents and physicians "weigh the benefits of drug therapy against the highly publicized risk of suicidal thinking," the Los Angeles Times reports (Roan, Los Angeles Times, 3/21).
- New York Times: The New York Times examined the increased number of celebrities who have begun to endorse antidepressants through Web site and television advertisements. Most celebrity ads do not mention specific antidepressants and refer consumers to a Web site that provides additional information. For example, Pfizer, which manufactures the antidepressant Zoloft, last week announced a new campaign that will feature Lorraine Bracco, an actress from the HBO series "The Sopranos." In addition, singer Shawn Colvin and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw have traveled nationwide to discuss mental health issues as part of a campaign sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin. GSK also has hired former Olympic diver Greg Louganis and actor Chad Allen to market antidepressants to gay consumers. Actress Delta Burke last year also served as a celebrity spokesperson as part of a campaign sponsored by Wyeth for the antidepressant Effexor XR (Saul, New York Times, 3/21).