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Independents' Day

Stop almost all psychiatric drug use, urges Cochrane expert

Psychotropic drug are responsible for over half a million deaths every year in older patients and offer only minimal benefits, according to a leading Cochrane researcher.

Professor Peter Gøtzsche, who helped found the Cochrane Collaboration and heads up the organisation’s Nordic centre, claims in a debate carried by this week’s BMJ that the majority of prescriptions for psychotropic drugs could simply be stopped with causing any harm.

Using Danish data, he claims that nearly 3,700 deaths a year among those aged 65 and older in Denmark are caused by antipsychotics, benzodiazepines – or similar drugs – and antidepressants, meaning they could be responsible for nearly 540,000 deaths each year across the USA and Europe.

Yet, he argues, the clinical trial evidence for their benefits is flawed and shows only minimal clinical benefits  - while ADHD drugs offer only short-term relief that is off-set by long-term harms.

Professor Gøtzsche writes: ‘Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm –by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drugs, and dementia drugs (as the small effects are probably the result of unblinding bias) and using only a fraction of the antipsychotics and benzodiazepines we currently use.’

However, Professor Allan Young, professor of mood disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, counters that concerns about psychiatric drugs are ‘overinflated’ and that they are ‘rigorously examined for efficacy and safety, before and after regulatory approval’.

BMJ 2015; available online 12 May

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Readers' comments (13)

  • The real problem is that psychiatrists sit in their cosy offices and decide if and when they will see a patient, unlike a GP who will see any patient that makes an appointment.

    When you are seen, you just get a 'label', they treat the symptoms without looking for the cause.

    If i appear to anaemic my GP will do a blood test to check my Hb level, yet a psychiatrist is happy to dope patients up with SSRI's without any test to establish what their SSRI levels are.

    Visit the CCHR site and see how many so called 'top psychiatrist tell us they haven't a clue about mental illness or the causes. The only thing you are guaranteed to get from a psychiatrist is yet another prescription for more drugs, as they work their way through the BNF. Pot luck, hopefully one of them will work or you will get fed up and go away quietly!

    Talking therapies are delivered by folk not skilled enough to deal with deep seated problems, and patients need training in lifestyle skills, not just another bottle of pills!

    It is all big money for pharmaceutical companies ... just wait till the next ICD 10 comes out, you will find that everything simple thing you do comes with a psychiatric label!

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  • Finally a sane conclusion in this mad over- medicalized world:)

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  • Your are shooting at the wrong target- the real overprescribing is of codeine gabapentin and benzo s

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