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Depression Health Center

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Are Antidepressant Warnings Causing Harm?

Study Shows Warnings About Suicidal Thoughts Led to Fewer Diagnoses of Depression

Antidepressants and Suicide Risk continued...

The researchers write that primary care clinicians have continued to diagnose fewer cases of depression, with a 44% lower rate of diagnosis among pediatric patients, 37% lower among young adults, and 29% among other adults.

The findings could spell danger, Valuck tells WebMD.

"Fewer and fewer are being diagnosed, and fewer prescribed SSRIs," he says. "We are concerned. We believe the FDA should revisit the topic to be more specific."

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a common type of antidepressant.

Consequences of Fewer Depression Diagnoses

The danger is that people who need to be treated for depression may neither be receiving guidance nor prescriptions from doctors, or even seeking it, Shannon Croft, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD.

"There may be more reluctance among primary care doctors to treat depression," he says. "The principle of the warnings is reasonable, but the way the warnings have been perceived is tragic."

He tells WebMD that many people who need treatment aren't getting it, and many parents are afraid of having their children take SSRIs.

Croft says SSRIs, when used properly, are "good medicines" that may carry "small risks, which is true of all medicines," but that the public reaction -- among some doctors and individuals -- has been overwrought.

Valuck tells WebMD that failing to prescribe SSRIs to youngsters who need it may be more dangerous than putting them on the medications.

Crystal Rice of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research says in an emailed statement that the FDA's intent in adding warnings was to "fully inform prescribers" of risks and benefits and "not to discourage appropriate prescribing."

"As well, it is important to note," the statement reads, "that the advisory committee recommended that balancing language be added to the boxed warning to make sure prescribers understand that depression itself is a serious illness that is associated with suicidal thoughts and actions."

Croft says he worries that the public's overreaction to the FDA advisories and warnings may cause an increase in suicides.

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