Researchers finally decided to make a meta-analysis on previous clinical trials related to the effect antidepressants have on children and teenagers. The results showed that pills have little to no effect on children and adolescents, and also they may even be harmful to them. The only exception is fluoxetine.
Even though experts warn that the clinical trials in the experiment were not infallible, the question remains.
The study followed 5,000 participants from clinical trials, all with ages between 9 and 18 years old. Researchers looked at the effects of 14 antidepressants. Only one of them, fluoxetine, was proven to be more effective than a placebo.
The most concerning fact is that another antidepressant, venlafaxine, was associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts. Imipramine and duloxetine had similar adverse effects.
The results led the authors to declare that children and teenagers may have fewer benefits than imagined from the treatment with antidepressants. The only exception is fluoxetine.
As another study had shown, the sudden interruption of therapy can be dangerous for children. Thus, researchers recommend the close monitoring of children and teenagers that are under antidepressants, especially in the beginning of the treatment.
The critics of this study say that the authors have selected only the cases that would fit their theory, and the number of clinical trials they used was not sufficient to form a generalized conclusion.
As it turns out, 65% of the trials were funded by pharmaceutical companies and the overall quality of data was considered to be very low in terms of objectivity.
Researchers argue that more detailed information would be necessary to draw an accurate conclusion. The trails used in the study cannot be verified, and there is no evidence on their accuracy.
These critics can reopen the debate on the open access to raw clinical trial data.
The publication bias in pharmaceutical research is not unusual. In 2004, GlaxoSmithKline had similar issues when trying to prove the effectiveness of an anti-anxiety drug in children and teens. More than that, the trials did not even mention the increase in suicidal tendencies.
Experts say that pharmaceutical companies are not to be held accountable for this type of bias, as the responsibility relies entirely on the research system, which encourages publishing only positive results.
The conclusion of this global clinical trial analysis is that the safest option in the treatment of major depression in children and adolescents is fluoxetine. However, the lack of accuracy and the various interests involved in these studies do not play in the favor of any of the tested substances.
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