What have antidepressants been tested for? A systematic review

Peter C Gøtzsche, Olivia Dinnage
International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine 2020, 31 (3): 157-163

BACKGROUND: Antidepressants are much used and have been tested for many conditions.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the type of diagnoses in placebo-controlled trials apart from depression and anxiety.

METHODS: This was a systematic review.

RESULTS: We downloaded 5471 records from PubMed and excluded 3017 that contained depression or anxiety. After exclusion of non-eligible studies, meta-analyses and reviews, and records that were unclear, 1273 records remained. We counted 214 unique diagnoses, of which the most common were abuse of drugs or substances (227 records), pain or neuropathy (170), obesity (125), other eating disorders (45), obsessive compulsive disorder (66), sexual dysfunction (41), gastrointestinal disorders (40), menopausal symptoms/hot flashes (36), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (27), urinary incontinence (21), post-traumatic stress disorder (38), schizophrenia (31), dementia or cognition problems (25), insomnia (19), ADHD (17), autism spectrum disorders (14), and stroke or traumatic brain injury (15).

CONCLUSIONS: Trials of antidepressants may be driven mainly by commercial interests, focusing on prevalent diseases and everyday problems. No one can live a full life without experiencing several of the problems for which these drugs were tested. Antidepressants, sometimes called happy pills, could be seen as the modern version of Aldous Huxley's soma pill intended to keep everyone happy in the "Brave New World".

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