Discussion about the use of antidepressants by children, always a hot topic, boiled over in September when hearings revealed that both the drug industry and the Food and Drug Administration had hidden evidence about dangers associated with the most widely prescribed drugs, a class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The analysis, which pharmaceutical companies failed to release to the public and which the FDA sat on for a year, indicated that these SSRIs double the suicide risk in depressed juveniles yet help no more children in trials than placebos do.
The high-profile congressional and FDA hearings were made all the more dramatic as parents recounted how their children had moved from moderate depression to suicide within days of starting SSRIs. Some of their children died during the year of delayed FDA action. Congressional subcommittee chair Representative Joe Barton of Texas lambasted the drug companies for withholding information and said the FDA's connivance suggested its initials stood for "foot-dragging and alibis." Even John Hayes, product team leader for Eli Lilly (whose Prozac was the one SSRI found both effective and safe) acknowledged the crisis with marked understatement, saying, "These hearings are evidence ... there is a great deal of mistrust."
This article was originally published with the title Antidepressants: Good Drugs or Good Marketing?.