Major depressive disorder is estimated by the World Health Organization to affect more than 300 million people globally, making depression the leading cause of disability worldwide.

A new study published online in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine aimed to provide an update on the evidence on the effects of antidepressants compared with placebo. Should antidepressants be used for adults with major depressive disorder?

Collating research from the Cochrane Library, BMJ Best Practice and PubMed since 1990, the analysis of evidence found that antidepressants seem to have minimal beneficial effects on depressive symptoms and increase the risk of both serious and non-serious adverse events.

The authors concluded:

The benefits of antidepressants seem to be minimal and possibly without any importance to the average patient with major depressive disorder. Antidepressants should not be used for adults with major depressive disorder before valid evidence has shown that the potential beneficial effects outweigh the harmful effects.

Another study recently published found people prescribed antidepressants were 2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than depressed people taking placebo pills. The research, published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, combined the results of 14 studies involving nearly 32,000 people taking a variety of antidepressants.

The Daily Mail reports:

“Last month, the Royal College of Psychiatrists acknowledged for the first time that coming off the pills can cause severe side effects lasting months – with the worst-hit suffering nausea, anxiety and insomnia...And two weeks ago, the European Medicines Agency issued guidance suggesting the most common pills – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs – can cause long-term loss of sexual function.

In an article published by CrossFit, longtime whistleblower critical of Big Pharma and former lead of the Cochrane Collaboration, Prof. Peter Gøtzsche writes:

In some countries, including the United States, about 10% of the entire population is in treatment with depression pills. This is a tragedy. These drugs do not have relevant effects on depression; they increase the risk of suicide and violence; and they make it more difficult for patients to live normal lives. They should therefore be avoided. We have been fooled by the drug industry, corrupt doctors on industry payroll, and by our drug regulators.”

Prof. Peter Gøtzsche recently took to Twitter writing:

Drugs have potential benefits and harms. For a company who makes the drugs, their job from a marketing standpoint is to inflate the potential benefits and minimize the idea of harms. For decades, oversight by regulatory agencies has been limited at best with conflicts of interest often permeating their recommendations and approvals. As new studies continue to cast pharmaceutical drugs in a well-deserved light of limited effectiveness and array of various harms, what course of action with the public and the medical community take?