Contradictory views on the use of Prozac to treat children with depression

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A new US Government study suggests that anti-depressants such as Eli Lilly and Co's Prozac are the best way to treat children with depression.

The researchers found Prozac a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor commonly prescribed as an antidepressant to be more effective in helping youngsters overcome depression than actual counselling.

The new study found that teenagers who only received counselling showed no better results than those who received a placebo in the trial. Those who were given antidepressants showed the biggest improvement. When the drug was combined with counselling, the improvement was greater still.

Some 439 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 took part in the study. All were suffering from moderate to severe depression.

For 36 weeks they received Prozac, a placebo or a combination of Prozac and counselling.

Some 378 participants completed the first 12 weeks of the 36-week study. Of those, 71 per cent who received Prozac and counselling responded well to treatment, compared with 61 per cent of those who received just Prozac, 43 per cent who received just counselling and 35 per cent who received a placebo.

It is estimated that up to 40,000 children and teenagers take antidepressants in Britain. All antidepressants other than Prozac are banned for those under 18 in Britain, amid fears that they can lead to suicidal tendencies.

British research from 2001 does however suggest otherwise. A British Medical Journal report found that antidepressants and specific psychological interventions are BOTH effective treatments for major depression. The BMA study found that 12 months after starting treatment, generic counselling was as effective as antidepressants. Patients who were treated with antidepressants may recover more quickly, but given a choice, more patients opt for counselling.  

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