Industry replies to damning anti-depressants report

A London PR agency has urged the pharma industry to speak out about the effectiveness of anti-depressants in the wake of a study deriding their benefits.

A study released last week - that was widely covered in the media - stated that there is little reason to prescribe anti-depressants to the majority of depressed patients.

But Aurora MD Neil Crump said: 'First-hand experience informs me that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are definitely effective in tackling depression, and particularly when coupled with talking therapy, they can transform people's lives.

'It is vital that the pharma industry communicates clearly to secure balanced coverage on both the condition and its treatment,' he added.

The study, led by Professor Kirsch at the University of Hull, analysed data from clinical trials of anti-depressants and found that they had no clinically significant effects in all cases apart from a small group of the most severely depressed patients.

The study was picked up by national newspapers including the Daily Mail, The Times, The Independent and The Guardian.

However, coverage of the study was slammed by the pharmaceutical industry.

A statement released by pharma firm GlaxoSmithKline said: 'We are disappointed at how this has been reported and believe that it has caused unnecessary concern for patients.

'Patients should not stop taking their medicine before discussing their situation with their doctor.'

Beverley Evans, director at Athena Medical PR, echoed the views raised by GSK.

'Very little of the coverage stressed that before people just abandon their medication they must talk to their doctor,' she said.

'It is incumbent on all of us to tread a bit more lightly than has been done this week. Responsible journalism must include warnings for patients not to just stop their treatment and the need to discuss this with their doctor.'

Evans also said that attacks on anti-depressants is a common theme and most pharma PR professionals are well practised when it comes to responding to the press.

She said: 'The attacks on the role of anti-depressants have been going on for some time now. It is part of the comms process.'

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