Strengthened warnings about anti-depressants needed

Patients with anxiety or depression should be given strengthened
warnings about the risk of experiencing withdrawal reactions at the
end of a course of treatment of antidepressants, a group of medical
experts warned today, writes Clare

New advice to GPs about antidepressant drugs was issued by the
Medicines and Healthcare products and Regulatory Agency.

An independent group of medical experts reviewed the group of
antidepressants known as SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake
Inhibitors) to look at the safety of the drugs.

In particular the group looked at whether the drugs could cause
patients to feel suicidal and how withdrawal from the drugs could
affect patients.

The review found there was no clear increase in the risk of
suicide from SSRIs compared to other antidepressants. However, a
modest increase in the risk of suicidal thoughts and self-harm for
SSRIs compared with placebo cannot be ruled out

But it recommends:-

• Careful patient monitoring by healthcare professionals
is needed during the early stages of treatment


• Young adults being treated with SSRIs should be closely
monitored as a precautionary measure

• Further research on the safety of SSRIs should assess young
adults separately.

Chief executive of the MHRA Professor Kent Woods said:
“The benefits of SSRIs in adults are still considered to
outweigh the risk of adverse drug reactions.”

But chief executive of Mind Richard Brook said the announcement
“masked other unanswered questions” and said the
charity still had serious concerns about the drug regulatory

“How is it that a drug regulatory system that is described
by the government as ‘the best in the world’ has
allowed the prescriptions of antidepressants to rapidly rise in the
last decade to 13 million a year at significant cost to the UK

“This increase in anti-depressant use now looks very
disturbing given the numerous well publicised patient reports of
side effects and withdrawal problems. How has the regulator allowed
this to occur despite several reviews of these drugs in the last
decade?” he added.

Brook said he would have liked to have seen resources made
available by the government to increase interventions such as
counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy.

“Mind believes unless some of the above issues and their
wider implications are urgently addressed by government we will
continue to have a drug regulatory service that can place
individual’s health at risk and that depression… fails
to be resourced at a level that reflects people’s health
needs,” Brook concluded.



More from Community Care

Comments are closed.