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Bridges4Kids LogoBritish: Risk of New Anti-depressants Outweighs Benefit
by Erica Goode, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 11, 2003
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British drug regulators Wednesday recommended against the use of all but one of a new generation of anti-depressants in the treatment of depressed children under 18.

In a letter sent to doctors and other health professionals, the government regulators said that a review of data on the safety and effectiveness of the drugs, known as SSRIs, indicated that their benefits did not outweigh their potential risks. The effectiveness of the drugs for treating depression in children has not been adequately demonstrated, they said. And some data have linked some of the drugs with suicidal thoughts and self-harm in children and adolescents, according to a summary of the regulators' findings, published on the Web site of the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

The agency, the relative equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, said it was issuing a strong signal to doctors not to use the drugs to treat depression in young people.

But the agency stopped short of entirely prohibiting them, saying there were circumstances when child and adolescent psychiatrists would want to use them.

The agency exempted Prozac, from Eli Lilly, but recommended against the use of six drugs: Paxil, from GlaxoSmithKline; Zoloft, from Pfizer; Effexor, from Wyeth; Celexa and Lexapro, both from Forest Laboratories Inc.; and Luvox, from Solvay.

The FDA is investigating whether the data support a link between suicide and SSRIs -- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- in children and adolescents.

On Feb. 2, an agency advisory committee will hold public hearings on the drugs' possible relationship to suicide. But Dr. Russell Katz, director of the FDA's division of neuropharmacological drug products, said that for many reasons, finding whether such a link existed was no easy task.

"Our view at the moment is that the risk is not particularly well-understood or defined," Katz said. "It is not at all a straightforward matter to figure this out."

He said there was no indication that the British regulators had access to any studies beyond those already under review by the FDA.

In June, the FDA warned doctors that they should not prescribe Paxil for depressed children and adolescents until it had sorted out the issue.

In October, it issued a health advisory that doctors should use caution in prescribing SSRIs to young patients and should closely monitor those taking the drugs.

Only a few of the drugs -- including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft -- have been tested in large scale trials as a treatment for depression in young people.


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