In what has become a repeated pattern of mainstream drugs being found to be mostly useless or harmful only after billions of dollars in profits have been reaped, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that antidepressant drugs do not help patients with mild, moderate and even severe depression much more than an inactive placebo.
The two anti-depressants studied were paroxetine and imipramine. Paroxetine is one of a widely sold class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and is better known as the brand name sold by GlaxoSmithKline: Paxil. Imipramine is an older tricyclic antidepressant drug which was developed in the 1950s.
The meta-analysis combined data from six studies with over 800 combined patients. Those with initial depression scores of 23 or below dropped an averaged 8 points when given antidepressants and 7 points when given a placebo. According to DeRubeis, the study should give pause doctors and patients weighing antidepressants, and he suggested that consideration be given to other alternatives such as exercise, psychotherapy, and even "self-treatment".
Glaxo spokeswoman Sarah Alspach responded by saying that the study "contributes to the extensive research" into antidepressants, noting that Paxil received U.S. government approval in 1992 and claimed that Paxil has helped "millions of people battling mental illness.
The study was far from the only bad news that has been reported about Paxil. Since Paxil's introduction on the market in 1993, the potentially dangerous drug has been plagued with complaints of serious adverse medical events including an increase in suicide rates and attempts, addiction, and birth defects.
In 2005, after Glaxo had denied repeated reports of Paxil causing addiction and severe withdrawal effects, a federal judge ordered the maker of the popular anti-depressant Paxil to stop all television commercials nationwide that say the drug is not habit-forming. The ruling against GlaxoSmithKline came after a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 35 patients who said they suffered various withdrawal symptoms. According to the judges ruling, the commercials were "misleading and created inaccurate expectations about the ease of withdrawal from the drug". It is reported that Glaxo has settled nearly 3,200 cases involving addiction-related complaints and complications.
Glaxo has reportedly settled 150 Paxil-related suicide cases and 300 Paxil-related suicide attempt cases thus far, though in most cases Glaxo has attempted to blame the suicides on the underlying depression and not the drug itself. Paxil has also been linked to severe birth-defects in children whose mothers took the antidepressant while pregnant. Last October, a Philadelphia jury found that Glaxo negligently failed to warn doctors of Paxil's risk to pregnant women and found that Paxil caused a heart defect in a three-year-old boy. The jury awarded $2.5 million to the parents. According to reports, this case was the first of some 600 lawsuits against Glaxo for failing to warn of Paxil's dangers to pregnant women. It has also been reported that Glaxo has settled 10 other birth-defect cases to date.
Paxil lawsuits and settlements have been estimated to cost Glaxo a staggering $1 Billion in settlements thus far, an amount that is nevertheless dwarfed by the many billions of dollars in profits Glaxo has reaped off Paxil sales.
Meanwhile, despite all the deaths, injuries and lawsuits, Paxil continues to have FDA approval, continues to downplay harmful side effects and continues to be highly promoted, the same as happened in the Vioxx scandal and with other harmful drugs. The Associated Press reported in August of last year that GlaxoSmithKline commissioned sales reps to recruit doctor-authors for ghostwritten articles supporting Paxil use. Glaxo even named the program after everyone’s favorite friendly ghost and called it the "CASPPER" program.