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Massive New Study Finds Antidepressants Work Better Than Placebo

ByAna AcevesNOVA NextNOVA Next

The most common way to treat depression is with drugs. And while antidepressants receive a bad rap at times, they appear to work, according to a massive new meta-analysis.

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In 2016, more than 16.2 American adults experienced at least one major depressive episode. Talk therapy can work in some cases, but not all. There has been a long-standing debate about the effectiveness of antidepressants—with some trials saying they were no more effective than placebos.

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A massive meta-analysis study reveals that antidepressants may help people manage their depression better than a placebo.

Andrea Cipriani and his colleges at the University of Oxford analyzed the results from 522 trials and unpublished data from pharmaceutical companies. In total, they involved more than 100,000 people. His team found that the 21 most common antidepressants were more effective at reducing symptoms of acute depression than placebo pills.

Here’s Alex Therrien for BBC News:

Prof Carmine Pariante, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This meta-analysis finally puts to bed the controversy on anti-depressants, clearly showing that these drugs do work in lifting mood and helping most people with depression.

But there were stark differences in the effectiveness of each drug—ranging from 33% to 200% more effective than a placebo.

Furthermore, this study could help doctors find the right prescription for patients suffering from depression. But people shouldn’t jump to changing their medication. The study analyzed only the average effect of drugs rather than how they work for individuals with from different ages, genders, and severity of symptoms.

Below is a list of the most effective and least effective antidepressants, according to the study.

The most effective:

  • agomelatine
  • amitriptyline
  • escitalopram
  • mirtazapine
  • paroxetine

The least effective:

  • fluoxetine
  • fluvoxamine
  • reboxetine
  • trazodone

Photo credit: Tom Varco / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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