In the study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis (combining several studies into one analysis) to gauge the benefit of antidepressants compared to placebo. They included data from six trials involving 718 adults with depression.The authors found that antidepressants showed little or no benefit over placebo in people with mild, moderate, or even severe depression. But the antidepressants brought considerable relief to those with very severe depression.
The researchers also note that studies supporting the effectiveness of antidepressants generally included only people with more severe depression, and excluded those with milder forms. However, this key piece of information is often left out of advertising for antidepressant drugs that targets both consumers and doctors.
While use of these drugs has skyrocketed, the flip side of this is, as we note in a recent Consumer Reports Best Buy Drug report on antidepressants: 60 percent to 70 percent of people with depression still don’t actually receive the treatment they need. This can include psychotherapy, which can be used in conjunction with medication and can also effectively relieve depression on its own in some cases. Some studies show that people treated with antidepressants are increasingly less likely to see a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, but given today’s findings, people with mild to moderate depression may choose to speak to their mental health professional or doctor about whether psychotherapy is appropriate for them.—Steve Mitchell, associate editor, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs