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The unfulfilled promise of the antidepressant medications

The Medical journal of Australia | 14 May 2016

CG Davey and AM Chanen
Abstract
Australia has one of the highest rates of antidepressant use in the world; it has more than doubled since 2000, despite evidence showing that the effectiveness of these medications is lower than previously thought. An increasing placebo response rate is a key reason for falling effectiveness, with the gap between response to medications and placebo narrowing. Psychotherapies are effective treatments, but recent evidence from high-quality studies suggests that their effectiveness is also modest. Combined treatment with medication and psychotherapy provides greater effectiveness than either alone. The number of patients receiving psychotherapy had been declining, although this trend is probably reversing with the Medicare Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative. Antidepressant medications still have an important role in the treatment of moderate to severe depression; they should be provided as part of an overall treatment plan that includes psychotherapy and lifestyle strategies to improve diet and increase exercise. When medications are prescribed, they should be used in a way that maximises their chance of effectiveness.
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Concepts
Bupropion, Clinical psychology, Sertraline, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Mental health, Psychiatry, Clinical trial, Psychology
MeSH headings
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