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How bad science sells bad drugs to good kids

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02/06/2013 09:25 AM

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How bad science sells bad drugs to good kids
• If we want to understand how our society may end up deluded about the merits of psychiatric medications, we can look at the research published by Robert Gibbons, Director of the Center for Health Statistics at the University of Chicago, on antidepressants and their use in children and adolescents. His latest articles appear in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry and if we examine his research and look at how critiques of his research have been treated, we can see how bad science ends up creating a false “evidence base” for the use of the medications.

Let’s follow this story from its start.

In 2004, the FDA concluded that, in randomized trials, SSRI antidepressants doubled the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours in children and young adults, compared to placebo. That finding led the FDA to issue a “black-box warning” that these drugs could increase the risk of suicide in children and adolescents.

Gibbons was a member of the FDA panel that voted in favour of the black box warning, 15 to eight. However, he was one of the dissenting eight and as he recalled in an interview, he felt that the warning was not warranted. Ever since then he has published a number of articles that dispute the FDA’s finding that SSRIs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. As his most recent articles disclose, he has also served as an expert witness for Wyeth and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in cases related to antidepressants and suicide. His findings, it is fair to say, help make him a valuable witness for the makers of SSRIs.

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