Counselling funding call as anti-depressants questioned
Wednesday, 27 February
Stuff News (NZ)
The Government should bolster counselling services in light of research suggesting popular anti-depressant pills give most users little benefit, the Green Party says.
The Government's drug buying agency Pharmac today said it was looking into the effectiveness of the pills after a major international study found they were of no "clinical" significance.
The study, by British and American researchers, analysed 47 clinical trials - some of them previously unpublished by the drug companies who commissioned them.
The researchers, led by Professor Irving Kirsch, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull, looked at four commonly-used antidepressants - including fluoxetine (was Prozac, now Fluox), venlafaxine (Efexor) and paroxetine (was Aropax, now Loxamine).
They found little evidence of benefit for most users when comparing the pills to a placebo. There was some benefit for those who were severely depressed.
Green Party health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley today said the research showed doctors should halt the practice of prescribing anti-depressants to children and teenagers.
Previous studies had shown an increased risk of suicidal thoughts in these age groups with some antidepressants.
"The new study raises serious questions about the costs and benefits of the widespread use of these drugs and demonstrates that treating anti-depressants as a 'one stop shop' to treat this illness would be seriously misguided."
Instead the Government should boost funding to counselling services to ensure they were readily available.
In some cases GPs were giving out anti-depressants because of a lack of available services, Ms Kedgley said.
"It is essential that young people are offered the best possible counselling services and that antidepressants are not the only help available. "We should not be putting our kids at risk simply due to a lack of investment in this key part of primary health care and relying entirely on anti-depressants with significant side effects."
Pharmac medical director Peter Moodie said Pharmac would take a "measured" look at the issue and people should not stop taking their medication without consulting their doctor.
Researched Medicines Industry Association chairwoman and Christchurch general practitioner Dr Pippa MacKay today said anti-depressants could have a transforming effect. "Yes, they certainly do work and I guess that the trick is prescribing them to the right people."