Antidepressant medications have been controversial for decades. When first introduced, drugs like Prozac were heralded as a major breakthrough in the treatment of depression. More recently, though, careful analysis of the medical literature shows that while such medicines can be helpful for people with major depression, they are barely better than placebo for mild to moderate depression. A new analysis of clinical trials for the antidepressant Cymbalta has revealed some intriguing statistics. Seven studies were reviewed involving over 2,500 people with major depression. Around three quarters of those taking the drug experienced improvement. Those taking placebo also experienced gradual improvement.
There was one surprising discovery, however. A significant number of patients receiving Cymbalta actually did worse than those getting placebos. These non-responders seemingly got no antidepressant benefit and probably experienced unpleasant side effects from the medication. Because it is nearly impossible to predict beforehand who will benefit from antidepressants and who will do worse, family, friends and prescribers will need to be especially vigilant during the early phase of treatment so they can determine whether the patient is getting better or getting worse.
[Archives of General Psychiatry, Dec. 2011]