Posted by Deborah Pujoue on February 29, 2012
On Sunday, February 19, The CBS show “60 Minutes” aired a segment that basically pointed out that research is showing how useless antidepressant medications really are. The segment reported that antidepressant medications are no better than placebos at curing and treating mild to moderate depression symptoms.
The show is claiming that this news is explosive. Well, maybe it would be if we didn’t already know that. 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl reported that the “17 million Americans with depression are spending an estimated $11.3 billion annually on drugs that research says don’t work for most of the people using them.” This information is definitely important, but it’s hardly news; studies suggesting that very thing have been around for a decade.
In fact, one of the primary interviewees featured in the segment (Irving Kirsch, assistant director of the Placebo Studies Program at the Harvard Medical School) actually wrote a research paper about antidepressants back in 1998. It should be noted that this first paper wasn’t Kirsch’s point of reference during the 60 Minutes interview. Instead Hirsch noted a second paper that he co-authored in 2002 that suggested that antidepressants don’t work better than placebos at treating depression. In that second paper, Kirsch analyzed data from published and unpublished studies to reach his conclusion. He looked at unpublished studies because he says that “drug companies frequently decline to publish their unfavorable findings. He had to request those studies from the Food and Drug Administration.”
More studies have been conducted by various researchers since Kirsch’s paper was created, and many of them came to the same conclusion — antidepressants just don’t work any better than placebos. SSRI medications are really getting monitored because they mess around with the brain’s serotonin levels, which is said to run the “happy factory” in the brain. Not all experts agree with that, either. For the segment on 60 Minutes, psychiatrist Dr. Walter Brown of Brown University said that the serotonin theory is “a gross oversimplification.”
This effort by 60 Minutes to expose the pointlessness of taking antidepressants is a valid one, but it is hardly the “explosive” report that the show tried to market it as. SSRI medications like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft have been proven to be not only unnecessary, but dangerous. Research has proven that these medications cause various birth defects in babies born to mothers who take the drugs while pregnant. Birth defects include PPHN, neural tube defects, cleft palate and heart, lung and brain defects.