Some antidepressants can cause severe side effects and should
not be given to children, researchers have warned.
A review of trials of fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline and
venlafaxine reveals that these newer types of antidepressants are
unlikely to have any major benefit for children.
The review says there was biased reporting of the trial results,
with the benefits exaggerated and adverse effects played down. The
literature review, published by the BMJ, highlights concern over
“overconfident recommendations” in treatment guidelines that could
mislead doctors, patients and their families.
The study explains how randomised controlled trials usually
underestimate drugs’ serious adverse effects and suggests
that the fact that those caused by newer antidepressants are common
enough to be detected “raises serious concerns about their
potential for harm”.
It states: “The magnitude of benefit is unlikely to be
sufficient to justify risking those harms, so confidently
recommending these drugs as a treatment option, let alone as
first-line treatment, would be inappropriate”.
Pharmaceutical companies funded at least three of the four major
trials, it adds.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and venlafaxine have
been used increasingly as first-line treatment for depression in
children, the report says.
However, last year the Committee on Safety of Medicines banned
the use of all SSRIs except fluoxetine in under-18s.
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