Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
Drug class
Serotonin (5-HT).svg
Use Depression anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders.
Biological target Serotonin transporter
ATC code N06AB
External links
MeSH D017367
AHFS/Drugs.com Drug Classes
Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs

Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor[1] (SSRIs) are a class of compounds typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders.

SSRIs are believed to increase the extracellular level of the neurotransmitter serotonin by inhibiting its reuptake into the presynaptic cell, increasing the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft available to bind to the postsynaptic receptor. They have varying degrees of selectivity for the other monoamine transporters, with pure SSRIs having only weak affinity for the noradrenaline and dopamine transporter.

SSRIs are the first class of psychotropic drugs discovered using the process called rational drug design, a process that starts with a specific biological target and then creates a molecule designed to affect it.[2] They are the most widely prescribed antidepressants in many countries.[2] The efficacy of SSRIs in mild or moderate cases of depression has been disputed.[3][4][5]

Medical uses[edit]

The main indication for SSRIs is major depressive disorder (also called "major depression", "clinical depression" and often simply "depression"). SSRIs are frequently prescribed for anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, chronic pain and occasionally, for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also frequently used to treat depersonalization disorder, although generally with poor results.[6]

Depression[edit]

Antidepressants are recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a first-line treatment of severe depression and for the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression that persists after conservative measures such as cognitive therapy.[7] They recommend against their routine use in those who have chronic health problems and mild depression.[7]

There has been controversy regarding the efficacy of antidepressants in treating depression depending on its severity and duration.

  • Two meta-analyses published in 2008 (Kirsch) and 2009 (Fournier) found that in mild and moderate depression, the effect of SSRIs is small or none compared to placebo, while in very severe depression the effect of SSRIs is between "relatively small " and "substantial".[3][8] The 2008 meta-analysis combined 35 clinical trials submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before licensing of four newer antidepressants (including the SSRIs paroxetine and fluoxetine, the non-SSRI antidepressant nefazodone, and the SNRI (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) venlafaxine). The authors attributed the relationship between severity and efficacy to a reduction of the placebo effect in severely depressed patients, rather than an increase in the effect of the medication.[8] Some researchers have questioned the statistical basis of this study suggesting that it underestimates the effect size of antidepressants.[9][10]
  • A 2010 comprehensive review conducted by NICE concluded that antidepressants have no advantage over placebo in the treatment of short term mild depression, but that the available evidence supported the use of antidepressants in the treatment of dysthymia and other forms of chronic mild depression.[11]
  • A second 2010 review reached similar conclusions to the Kirsch and Fournier analyses: in mild and moderate depression, specifically that the effect of SSRI is very small or none compared to placebo, while it is clinically significant in very severe depression.[3][12]
  • A 2012 meta analysis examined individual longitudinal response data for all patients participating who participated in manufacturer- or National Institute of Mental Health sponsored 6 weeks trials of the SSRIs fluoxetine and venlafaxine. The authors concluded that statistically and clinically significant treatment effects were observed for each drug relative to placebo irrespective of baseline depression severity.[13]

SSRIs are recommended by NICE over tricyclics due to their superior tolerability.[14] One study showed that SSRIs have greater adverse effects than TCAs in the elderly, though the authors caution that more research is needed.[15] There does not appear to be a substantial difference in efficacy among the various second generation antidepressants (SSRIs and SNRIs).[16]

Generalized anxiety disorder[edit]

SSRIs are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) that has failed to respond to conservative measures such as education and self-help activities. GAD is a common disorder of which the central feature is excessive worry about a number of different events. Key symptoms include excessive anxiety about multiple events and issues, and difficulty controlling worrisome thoughts that persists for at least 6 months.

Antidepressants provide a modest-to-moderate reduction in anxiety in GAD,[17] and are superior to placebo in treating GAD.[18] The efficacy of different antidepressants is similar.[17][18]

Obsessive compulsive disorder[edit]

SSRIs are a second line treatment of adult obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) with mild functional impairment and as first line treatment for those with moderate or severe impairment. In children, SSRIs can be considered as a second line therapy in those with moderate-to-severe impairment, with close monitoring for psychiatric adverse effects.[19] SSRIs are efficacious in the treatment of OCD; patients treated with SSRIs are about twice as likely to respond to treatment as those treated with placebo.[20][21]

Eating disorders[edit]

Anti-depressants are recommended as an alternative or additional first step to self-help programs in the treatment of bulimia nervosa.[17] SSRIs (fluoxetine in particular) are preferred over other anti-depressants due to their acceptability, tolerability, and superior reduction of symptoms in short term trials. Long term efficacy remains poorly characterized.

Similar recommendations apply to binge eating disorder.[17] SSRIs provide short term reductions in binge eating behavior, but have not been associated with significant weight loss.[22]

Clinical trials have generated mostly negative results for the use of SSRI's in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.[23] Treatment guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence[17] recommend against the use of SSRIs in this disorder. Those from the American Psychiatric Association note that SSRIs confer no advantage regarding weight gain, but that they may be used for the treatment of co-existing depressive, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.[22]

Stroke recovery[edit]

SSRIs have been used in the treatment of stroke patients, including those with and without symptoms of depression. A recent meta analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials found a statistically significant effect of SSRIs on dependence, neurological deficit, depression, and anxiety. There was no statistically significant effect on death, motor deficits, or cognition.[24]

Premature ejaculation[edit]

A general disadvantage of SSRIs in treating premature ejaculation is that they require continuous daily treatment to delay ejaculation significantly.[25] For the occasional "on-demand" treatment, a few hours before coitus, clomipramine gave better results than paroxetine in one study,[26] while in another study both sertraline and clomipramine were indistinguishable from the pause–squeeze technique and inferior to paroxetine.[27] The most recent research, conducted in 2007, suggests that on-demand treatment with sildenafil (Viagra) offers a dramatic improvement in ejaculation delay and sexual satisfaction as compared with daily paroxetine,[28] with on-demand sertraline, paroxetine or clomipramine,[27] and with the pause–squeeze technique.[27][28]

Adverse effects[edit]

General side effects are mostly present during the first one to four weeks while the body adapts to the drug (with the exception of sexual side effects, which tend to occur later in treatment). In fact, it often takes six to eight weeks for the drug to begin reaching its full potential (the slow onset is considered a downside to treatment with SSRIs). Almost all SSRIs are known to cause one or more of these symptoms:

Many side effects disappear after the adaptation phase, when the antidepressant effects begin to come to prominence. However, despite being called general, the side effects and their durations are highly individual and drug-specific. Usually the treatment is begun with a small dose to see how the patient's body reacts to the drug, after that either the dose can be adjusted (e.g. Prozac in the UK is begun at a 20 mg dose, and then adjusted as necessary to 40 mg or 60 mg). Should the drug prove ineffective, or the side effects intolerable to the patient, another common route is to switch treatment to either another SSRI, or an SNRI.[35]

Mania or hypomania is a possible side effect. Users with some type of bipolar disorder are at a much higher risk, however SSRI-induced mania in patients previously diagnosed with unipolar depression can trigger a bipolar episode; however, according to DSM IV-TR, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder requires that the individuals symptoms must not stem from medication side effects, toxins, drug abuse, or another general medical condition.

Sexual dysfunction[edit]

SSRIs can cause various types of sexual dysfunction such as anorgasmia, erectile dysfunction, diminished libido, genital numbness, and sexual anhedonia (pleasureless orgasm).[36] Initial studies found the incidence of sexual side effects from SSRIs not significantly different from placebo, but since these studies relied on unprompted reporting, the frequency was underestimated. In more recent studies, doctors have specifically asked about sexual difficulties, and found that they are present in most patients.[37][38]

Symptoms of sexual dysfunction occasionally persist after discontinuing SSRIs. The incidence of this adverse effect is unknown. A limited series of published case reports describe a loss of genital sensation and other side effects continuing years after cessation of therapy.[39][40][41][42]

The mechanism by which SSRIs cause sexual side effects is not well understood. In part, it is thought that stimulation of postsynaptic 5-HT2 and 5-HT3 receptors decreases dopamine and norepinephrine release from the substantia nigra. A number of (non-SSRI) drugs are not associated with sexual side effects (such as bupropion, mirtazapine, tianeptine, agomelatine and moclobemide,.[43][44]

There is no FDA-approved treatment for SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction and there has been a lack of randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies of potential treatments. There is evidence for the following management strategies: for erectile dysfunction, the addition of a PDE5 inhibitor such as sildenafil; for decreased libido, possibly adding or switching to bupropion; and for overall sexual dysfunction, switching to nefazodone.[45]

Cardiovascular[edit]

Cardiovascular side effects are very rare with SSRI use, with a reported incidence of less than 0.0003 percent.[46] SSRIs inhibit cardiac and vascular sodium, calcium and potassium channels and prolong QT intervals.[47] A number of large studies of patients without known pre-existing heart disease have reported no EKG changes related to SSRI use.[48] More recently, however, concerns about cardiac problems have led to a reduction in the recommended maximum dose of two types of SSRI's. The recommended maximum daily dose of citalopram was reduced to 40 mg for most people and 20 mg for those older than age 60 and some others.[49] The recommended maximum daily dose of escitalopram was reduced to 10 mg for those older than age 65; the maximum daily dose for most other people remained unchanged at 20 mg.[50][51] In overdose, fluoxetine has been reported to cause sinus tachycardia, myocardial infarction, junctional rhythms and trigeminy. Some authors have suggested electrocardiographic monitoring in patients with severe pre-existing cardiovascular disease who are taking SSRI's.[52]

Discontinuation syndrome[edit]

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors should not be abruptly discontinued after extended therapy, and whenever possible, should be tapered over several weeks to minimize discontinuation-related symptoms which may include nausea, headache, dizziness, chills, body aches, paresthesias, insomnia, and electric shock-like sensations. Paroxetine may produce discontinuation-related symptoms at a greater rate than other SSRIs, though qualitatively similar effects have been reported for all SSRIs.[53][54] Discontinuation effects appear to be less for fluoxetine, perhaps owing to its long half-life and the natural tapering effect associated with its slow clearance from the body. One strategy for minimizing SSRI discontinuation symptoms is to switch the patient to fluoxetine and then taper and discontinue the fluoxetine.[53]

Suicide risk[edit]

Children and adolescents[edit]

Several studies have found that SSRI use is related to a higher risk of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents.[55][56][57] For instance, a 2004 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis of clinical trials on children with major depressive disorder found statistically significant increases of the risks of "possible suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior" by about 80%, and of agitation and hostility by about 130%;[58] More infrequently, studies have been inconclusive.[59] However, a recent comparison of aggression and hostility occurring during treatment with fluoxetine to placebo in children and adolescents found that no significant difference between the fluoxetine group and a placebo group.[60] There is also evidence that higher rates of SSRI prescriptions are associated with lower rates of suicide in children, though since the evidence is correlational, the true nature of the relationship is unclear.[61]

In 2004, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the United Kingdom judged fluoxetine (Prozac) to be the only antidepressant that offered a favorable risk-benefit ratio in children with depression, though it was also associated with a slight increase in the risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation.[62] Only two SSRIs are licensed for use with children in the UK, sertraline (Zoloft) and fluvoxamine (Luvox), and only for the treatment of obsessive–compulsive disorder. Fluoxetine is not licensed for this use.[63]

Adults[edit]

It is unclear whether or not SSRIs affect the risk of suicidal behavior for adults.

  • A 2005 meta-analysis of drug company data found no evidence that SSRIs increased the risk of suicide; however, important protective or hazardous effects could not be excluded.[64] Also among high-risk adult patients, antidepressant drug treatment does not seem related to suicide attempts and death.[57]
  • A 2005 review observed that suicide attempts are increased in those who use SSRIs as compared to placebo and compared to therapeutic interventions other than tricyclic antidepressants. No difference risk of suicide attempts was detected between SSRIs versus tricyclic antidepressants.[65]
  • On the other hand, a 2006 review suggests that the widespread use of antidepressants in the new "SSRI-era" appear to have led to highly significant decline in suicide rates in most countries with traditionally high baseline suicide rates. The decline is particularly striking for women who, compared with men, seek more help for depression. Recent clinical data on large samples in the US too have revealed a protective effect of antidepressant against suicide.[66]
  • A 2006 meta analysis of random controlled trials suggests that SSRIs increase suicide ideation compared with placebo. However, the observational studies suggests that SSRIs did not increase suicide risk more than older antidepressants. The researchers stated that if SSRIs increase suicide risk in some patients, the number of additional deaths is very small because ecological studies have generally found that suicide mortality has declined (or at least not increased) as SSRI use has increased.[67]
  • An additional meta-analysis by the FDA in 2006 found an age-related effect of SSRI's. Among adults younger than 25 years, results indicated that there was a higher risk for suicidal behavior. For adults between 25 and 64, the effect appears neutral on suicidal behavior but possibly protective for suicidal behavior for adults between the ages of 25 and 64. For adults older than 64, SSRI's seem to reduce the risk of both suicidal behavior.[55]

Suicide warnings[edit]

The FDA findings resulted in a black box warning on SSRI and other antidepressant medications regarding the increased risk of suicidal behavior in patients younger than 24.[68] Similar precautionary notice revisions were implemented by the Japanese Ministry of Health.[69] In 2004 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom issued a warning about increases in 'insomnia, agitation, weight loss, headache, tremor, loss of appetite, self-harm and suicidal thoughts' when the medications are used with children and adolescents.[70]

Pregnancy and breastfeeding[edit]

Administration during pregnancy of SSRI is associated with an increased rate of miscarriages, birth defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, newborn behavioral syndrome, and possibly long term behavioral problems.[71] The risk of spontaneous abortion is increased about 1.7 fold.[72]

The FDA issued a statement on July 19, 2006 stating nursing mothers on SSRIs must discuss treatment with their physicians. However, the medical literature on the safety of SSRIs has determined that some SSRIs like Sertraline and Paroxetine are considered safe for breastfeeding.[73][74][75]

Maternal SSRI use may be associated with autism.[76] A large cohort study published 2013 found no significant association between SSRI use and autism in offspring.[77]

Neonatal abstinence syndrome[edit]

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a withdrawal syndrome in newborn babies. It has been documented in SSRI treatment. By November 2003, a total of 93 cases of SSRI use associated with either neonatal convulsions or withdrawal syndrome had been reported. Subsequently, the authors of a Lancet study concluded that doctors should avoid or cautiously manage the prescribing of these drugs to pregnant women with psychiatric disorders.[78]

Neuropsychological changes due to SSRI use in infancy[edit]

Since the early 80's scientists have used a technique called neonatal clomipramine to produce animals used in depression research. If rats are given the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine when 8–21 days old, they develop behavioural changes in adulthood that resemble depression in humans.[79][80] In 1997 Lundbeck found that treatment with the SSRI LU-10-134-C, which only differs from their product citalopram by two atoms could give similar results as clomipramine.[81] Later it was found that neonatal citalopram and escitalopram makes persistent changes in the serotonergic transmission of the brain resulting in behavioral changes,[82][83] which are reversed by treatment with antidepressants.[84] By treating normal and knockout mice lacking the serotonin transporter with fluoxetine scientists showed that normal emotional reactions in adulthood, like a short latency to escape foot shocks and inclination to explore new environments were dependent on active serotonin transporters during the neonatal period.[85][86]

But when young mice were treated with the SNRI desimipramine they developed to normal adults, which suggests that serotonin and norepinephrine have different effects in the developing brain. For humans, the developmental stage sensitive to SSRI:s corresponds with the last trimester to the first years of life. A study showed that 4-year old children perinatally exposed to SSRIs behave normally. However, the young mice and rats also seem normal until they reach puberty and develop behavioural disturbances.[87][88]

The mechanism is currently unknown, but it seems that early life overstimulation of the 5-HT1 receptor that regulates serotonin production results in low serotonin production after puberty.[89]

Persistent pulmonary hypertension[edit]

Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) is a serious and life-threatening, but rare, lung condition that occurs soon after birth of the newborn. Newborn babies with PPHN have high pressure in their lung blood vessels and are not able to get enough oxygen into their bloodstream. About 1 to 2 babies per 1000 babies born in the U.S. develop PPHN shortly after birth, and often they need intensive medical care. One study has found that PPHN is six times more common in babies whose mothers take an SSRI antidepressant after the 20th week of the pregnancy compared to babies whose mothers do not take an antidepressant.[90]

A population-based cohort study, which included 1.6 million live births in five Nordic countries, of women with filled SSRI prescriptions later than the 20th week gestation by last menstrual period demonstrated an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) compared to control infants (adjusted RR 2.1, 95% CI 1.5-3). The increased risk of PPHN was of similar magnitude for the SSRI class of drugs (Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Paroxetine, Sertraline, Escitalopram). This study showed that the absolute risk of PPHN would only increase the incidence from 0.1 to 0.3 percent of live-births with late prenatal SSRI exposure.[91]

Bleeding tendencies[edit]

SSRIs appear to increase the risk of bleeding.[92][93][94][95] This includes an increased risk of GI bleeding, post operative bleeding,[92] and intracranial bleeding.[96] SSRIs are known to cause platelet dysfunction.[97][98]

Overdose[edit]

SSRIs appear safer in overdose when compared with traditional antidepressants, such as the tricyclic antidepressants. This relative safety is supported both by case series and studies of deaths per numbers of prescriptions.[99] However, case reports of SSRI poisoning have indicated that severe toxicity can occur[100] and deaths have been reported following massive single ingestions,[101] although this is exceedingly uncommon when compared to the tricyclic antidepressants.[99]

Because of the wide therapeutic index of the SSRIs, most patients will have mild or no symptoms following moderate overdoses. The most commonly reported severe effect following SSRI overdose is serotonin syndrome; serotonin toxicity is usually associated with very high overdoses or multiple drug ingestion.[102] Other reported significant effects include coma, seizures, and cardiac toxicity.[99]

The SSRIs, in decreasing toxicity in overdose, can be listed as follows:[103]

Contraindications and drug interactions[edit]

The following drugs may precipitate serotonin syndrome in people on SSRIs:[104][105]

Painkillers of the NSAIDs drug family may interfere and reduce efficiency of SSRIs and may compound the increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeds caused by SSRI use.[93][95][106] NSAIDs include:

There are a number of potential pharmacokinetic interactions between the various individual SSRIs and other medications. Most of these arise from the fact that every SSRI has the ability to inhibit certain P450 cytochromes.[107][108]

Drug Name CYP1A2 CYP2C9 CYP2C19 CYP2D6 CYP3A4 CYP2B6
Citalopram + 0 0 + 0 0
Escitalopram 0 0 0 + 0 0
Fluoxetine + ++ +/++ +++ + +
Fluvoxamine +++ ++ +++ + + +
Paroxetine + + + +++ + +++
Sertraline + + +/++ + + +

Legend:
0 — no inhibition.
+ — mild inhibition.
++ — moderate inhibition.
+++ — strong inhibition.

List of agents[edit]

Drugs in this class include (trade names in parentheses):

  • citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil, Cipram, Dalsan, Recital, Emocal, Sepram, Seropram, Citox, Cital)
  • dapoxetine (Priligy)
  • escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex, Seroplex, Esertia)
  • fluoxetine (Depex, Prozac, Fontex, Seromex, Seronil, Sarafem, Ladose, Motivest, Flutop, Fluctin (EUR), Fluox (NZ), Depress (UZB), Lovan (AUS), Prodep (IND))
  • fluvoxamine (Luvox, Fevarin, Faverin, Dumyrox, Favoxil, Movox, Floxyfral)
  • indalpine (Upstene) (discontinued)
  • paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat, Sereupin, Aropax, Deroxat, Divarius, Rexetin, Xetanor, Paroxat, Loxamine, Deparoc)
  • sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral, Serlain, Asentra, Tresleen)
  • zimelidine (Zelmid, Normud) (discontinued)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Citalopram structure.svg

Citalopram

Dapoxetine Structural Formulae V.1.svg

Dapoxetine

Escitalopram.svg

Escitalopram

Fluoxetine-2D-skeletal.svg

Fluoxetine

Fluvoxamine2DACS.svg

Fluvoxamine

Indalpine.png

Indalpine

Paroxetine.svg

Paroxetine

Sertraline Structural Formulae.png

Sertraline

Zimelidine Structural Formulae V.1.svg

Zimelidine

Related agents[edit]

SSRIs form a subclass of serotonin uptake inhibitors, which includes other non-selective inhibitors as well. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake enhancers are also serotonergic antidepressants.

Mechanism of action[edit]

In the brain, messages are passed between two nerve cells via a chemical synapse, a small gap between the cells. The (presynaptic) cell that sends the information releases neurotransmitters (including serotonin) into that gap. The neurotransmitters are then recognized by receptors on the surface of the recipient (postsynaptic) cell, which upon this stimulation, in turn, relays the signal. About 10% of the neurotransmitters are lost in this process; the other 90% are released from the receptors and taken up again by monoamine transporters into the sending (presynaptic) cell (a process called reuptake).

SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin. As a result, the serotonin stays in the synaptic gap longer than it normally would, and may repeatedly stimulate the receptors of the recipient cell. In the short run this leads to an increase in signalling across synapses in which serotonin serves as the primary neurotransmitter. On chronic dosing, the increased occupancy of pre-synaptic serotonin receptors signals the pre-synaptic neuron to synthesize and release less serotonin. Serotonin levels within the synapse drop, then rise again, ultimately leading to down-regulation of post-synaptic serotonin receptors.[109] Other, indirect effects may include increased norepinephrine output, increased neuronal cyclic AMP levels, and increased levels of regulatory factors such as BDNF and CREB.[110] Owing to the lack of a widely accepted comprehensive theory of the biology of mood disorders, there is no widely accepted theory of how these changes lead to the mood-elevating and anti-anxiety effects of SSRIs.

Pharmacogenetics[edit]

Large bodies of research are devoted to using genetic markers to predict whether patients will respond to SSRIs or have side effects that will cause their discontinuation, although these tests are not yet ready for widespread clinical use.[111] Single-nucleotide polymorphisms of the 5-HT(2A) gene correlated with paroxetine discontinuation due to side effects in a group of elderly patients with major depression, but not mirtazapine (a non-SSRI antidepressant) discontinuation.[112]

SSRIs versus TCAs[edit]

SSRIs are described as 'selective' because they affect only the reuptake pumps responsible for serotonin, as opposed to earlier antidepressants, which affect other monoamine neurotransmitters as well, and as a result, SSRIs have fewer side effects.

There appears no significant difference in effectiveness between SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants, which were the most commonly used class of antidepressants before the development of SSRIs.[113] However, SSRIs have the important advantage that their toxic dose is high, and, therefore, they are much more difficult to use as a means to commit suicide. Further, they have fewer and milder side effects. Tricyclic antidepressant also have a higher risk of serious cardiovascular side effects, which SSRIs lack.

Society and culture[edit]

Controversy[edit]

David Healy has argued that warning signs were available for many years prior to regulatory authorities moving to put warnings on antidepressant labels that they might cause suicidal thoughts.[114]

Critics of SSRIs claim that the widely disseminated television and print advertising of SSRIs promotes an inaccurate message, oversimplifying what these medications actually do and deceiving the public.[115] Specifically, critics allege that manufacturers inaccurately portray antidepressants as 'correcting' chemical imbalances. They contend that without accurately measuring patients' neurotransmitter levels to allow for continuous monitoring during treatment, it is impossible to know if one is correctly targeting a deficient neurotransmitter (i.e. correcting an imbalance), reaching a desirable level, or even introducing too much of a particular neurotransmitter.[116]

Biopsychiatrists believe that, among other factors, the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain is a biological regulator of mental health. In this theory, emotions within a "normal" spectrum reflect a proper balance of neurochemicals, but abnormally extreme emotions, such as clinical depression, reflect an imbalance. Psychiatrists[who?] claim that medications regulate neurotransmitters, and many if not most psychiatrists also claim they treat abnormal personalities by removing a neurochemical excess or replenishing a deficit.[citation needed] On the other hand, Elliot Valenstein, a psychologist and neuroscientist, claims that the broad biochemical assertions and assumptions of mainstream psychiatry are not supported by evidence.[117]

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine on a possible publication bias regarding the efficacy of SSRI medications in the treatment of depression suggests that their effectiveness and risk-benefit ratios may be greatly exaggerated. Of 74 studies registered with the United States FDA, 37 with positive results were published in academic journals, while 22 studies with negative results were not published and 11 with negative results were published in a way that conveyed a positive outcome (one positive study was not published and three negative studies were published with results that were portrayed as negative). Overall, 94% of studies actually published were positive outcomes; when published and unpublished studies were included for analysis, the percentage of positive outcomes was 51%.[118]

Regulation[edit]

All SSRIs are approved in the U.S. for use with psychiatric disorders as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV).

Approved uses for SSRIs vary by country and are determined by the overseeing branch of government in charge of regulating drugs. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves drugs after trial results have been submitted by the pharmaceutical companies. In Europe, drugs can be approved either by the European Medicines Agency for human consumption throughout the European Union or by the regulatory agencies of individual countries for use within those countries.[citation needed]. In Canada, the drug approval process is carried out by Health Canada.

Lawsuits[edit]

Lawsuits have been filed against drug manufacturers seeking compensation for harm attributed to the use of SSRIs. Suits based on product liability, for example, often allege failure to adequately warn users of potential side effects. Lawsuits alleging that SSRIs caused birth defects have been particularly popular.[119]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b Preskorn SH, Ross R, Stanga CY (2004). "Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors". In Sheldon H. Preskorn, Hohn P. Feighner, Christina Y. Stanga and Ruth Ross. Antidepressants: Past, Present and Future. Berlin: Springer. pp. 241–62. ISBN 978-3-540-43054-4. 
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  9. ^ Horder J, Matthews P, Waldmann R (June 2010). "Placebo, Prozac and PLoS: significant lessons for psychopharmacology". Journal of Psychopharmacology 25 (10): 1277–88. doi:10.1177/0269881110372544. PMID 20571143. 
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