Two commonly prescribed antidepressants were shown to produce benefits only slightly greater than a placebo in patients with mild to severe depression, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, who said the condition might be better treated with alternatives. Looking at data from six studies on the effectiveness of paroxetine and imipramine, they found patients “would have done just as well or just about as well with a placebo,” said psychologist Robert DeRubeis, who worked on the report. The meta-analysis, which involved nearly 800 patients, showed the drugs’ impact was stronger than a placebo in people diagnosed with very severe cases of depression: using a scoring system for depression, with a diagnosis of 24 or above signalling a very strong case, researchers said patients treated with drugs saw scores drop by 13 points, compared to 9 with a placebo. But for those with initial scores of 23 or below, the average drop was 8 points for those on antidepressants, and 7 for those with a placebo. At least 27 million Americans take antidepressants, nearly double the number from the mid-1990s.
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