New research analysing data that may have been with withheld by drug companies suggests that the widely-used anti-depressant known as Seroxat in the UK, increases the likelihood of suicide.
According to this new analysis the chances that the risk of suicide is increased by taking Seroxat is 90%. This is not the sort of probability level that can be ignored.
The results of the studies are clear enough to understand without the use of statistics. In the placebo group containing 550 patients, one suicide attempt was made while in the group of 916 patients taking Seroxat, seven suicide attempts were made. No attempts were completed.
These kinds of results are further blows to the most sophisticated anti-depressants yet developed. A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKine, the manufacturers of Seroxat, executed the standard duck and weave:
- Platitude: “We take the safety of all our medicines extremely seriously.”
- Cast doubt: “At this stage, it’s not clear what method the researchers have used to arrive at these numbers.”
- Head in sand: “…these conclusions in no way reflect the picture that has been built up about the benefits and risks of paroxetine in adults…”
Margaret Edwards of Sane encapsulates the problem more precisely:
“Seventy per cent of those being treated with the new anti-depressants respond well, and the risks of suicide from untreated depression must be borne in mind in balancing the risks and benefits.”
The question is, how much risk can be borne?
Suicide attempts in clinical trials with paroxetine randomised against placebo[Research report, PDF]
Published: 23 August 2005