Study shows decline in a certain drug injury after FDA warnings on antidepressants

The AP (6/2, Johnson) reports that, according to a study published June 1 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, “a persistent decline in the rate of Americans, especially children, newly diagnosed with depression followed the first…warning” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “on risks connected with antidepressant” medications. The agency “first warned” in 2003 “about the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in young people taking the drugs. That action may have helped reverse a five-year trend of rising rates of diagnosis for depression,” researchers from the University of Colorado-Denver found after analyzing “eight years of data from nearly 100 managed care plans and more than 55 million patients.”

The Los Angeles Times (6/2, Healy) explains that the “new wariness” to prescribe antidepressants appears to be “particularly pronounced among primary-care physicians — the doctors to whom most patients with mental health problems tend to turn first,” the study authors wrote. Moreover, “the reluctance to diagnose and treat depression affected populations not even covered by the warnings that the FDA issued on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in October 2003. During the three subsequent years, primary-care physicians diagnosed depression in adults 29 percent less often than would have been expected and 37 percent less often in young adults,” with the “drop in depression diagnoses” being “sharpest for children — 44 percent.” Meanwhile, the overall “use of psychotherapy as an alternative to medications appeared lower than would have been expected if doctors were routinely proposing talk therapy as a substitute for antidepressants.”