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These companion articles referenced here re-analyzed studies of fluoxetine for adults and youth and venlafaxine for adults, claiming the drugs to be safe and effective. Jacqueline Sparks and I were interested in these articles as we have long argued that antidepressants in general are not effective and are related to suicidality, particularly in youth. Gibbons has been pivotal in promoting a pro-drug agenda and insisting that the black box issued by the FDA on all antidepressants for youth has led to increased youth suicide, even when the data do not support this. So, when we saw these two articles, and the press that followed (for example: National Public Radio’s health blog, “A Fresh Look at Antidepressants Finds Low Risk of Suicide”; The LA Times headlined “Study Questions Antidepressant Link to Suicide in Kids;” and “. . . Medscape, “No Link Between Antidepressants and Suicide in Kids”) we just sighed and said here we go again.
We started sleuthing the articles and, no surprise, found some pretty glaring problems. Just for starters, in the suicidality article, they only looked at one item on a clinician-rated scale (and one they altered in a way that was not adequately explained). The AERs (adverse events reports) were solicited from the drug company that sponsored the trials with no checks on bias and only included suicidal behaviors and not ideation, contradicting all previous analyses and seriously undercounting suicidality. In the benefits analysis, their findings were significantly out of step with those from the studies from which the data was obtained. Our comments address these substantial problems.