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Health Team

JAMA Study Shows Positive Results for Antidepressant Use in Children

Posted April 17, 2007 4:02 p.m. EDT
Updated April 17, 2007 6:35 p.m. EDT

The Food and Drug Administration recently placed a warning on antidepressants, saying the medications increase the suicide risk among teens. But a new study of about 5,000 children and teens shows antidepressants are safe and effective.

The black box warning from the FDA says antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents with major depressive disorder. But the author of the new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that warning should at least be reconsidered.

Psychiatrist Dr. David Brent said the study compared the number of kids helped by antidepressants to those who became suicidal. He found less than 1 percent experienced suicidal thoughts or behavior.

“And there were very few actual suicide attempts and no suicide completions,” Brent said.

Antidepressants were most effective for children with anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders. The effects were not as great for those with major depression.

However, Brent said for those patients, antidepressants are better than nothing.

“Depression is a potentially fatal illness if untreated,” he said.

The National Institute of Mental Health provided most of the funding for the study. There was no funding from pharmaceutical companies.

Pediatrician Dr. Pamela Murray, who specializes in adolescent medicine, said medication could benefit many of her patients.

“Probably some days more than 50 percent of the patients who come here could potentially benefit from antidepressants,” she said.

Murray confirms that children with anxiety disorders benefit most from the medications. But she stressed patients need careful monitoring to make sure the drugs are working the way they should.