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May 10, 2007

Antidepressants Study by Public Policy Professor Dave Marcotte Featured in The Atlantic

Study finds suicide rates fall significantly within countries as antidepressant sales increase.

Kavan Peterson
Office: 410-455-1896

BALTIMORE – An innovative study on the impact of antidepressants on suicide rates co-authored by Associate Professor Dave Marcotte of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is featured in the June issue of The Atlantic.

Marcotte’s research examined the effects of antidepressants on suicide mortality rates in 26 countries over 25 years. The largest-ever study of international patterns of suicide and antidepressant therapy found a significant decline in suicide deaths in countries with the fastest growth in sales of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

According to the study Anti-depressants and Suicide, an increase of one pill per capita (about a 12 percent increase over sales in 2000) results in a 5 percent drop in suicide deaths. The study concludes that expanding access to treatment and SSRIs is a more cost-effective method to limit suicide mortality than many other public-health interventions.

The study follows a series of recent government warnings that question the safety of SSRIs, which are among the most widely prescribed medications in the world. Since 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required “black box” warning labels on antidepressants saying they may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and adolescents. These warnings were just updated on May 2, 2007.

However, Marcotte and his co-authors argue that randomized clinical trials – which are the basis for the FDA’s findings – have produced conflicting findings over whether SSRIs impact suicide rates. Such trials are a poor way to examine the impact of SSRIs on suicide rates because the samples are too small to yield statistically significant results and “exclude those at highest risk for suicide,” the study found.

“The inability of clinical trials to resolve this question, and the FDA warnings have created intense controversy within medicine. Analyses like ours are the most promising way to shed light on a question of immense importance,” said Marcotte, an associate professor of public policy and researcher at the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (MIPAR) at UMBC.

The study, which was co-authored by Jens Ludwig of Georgetown University and Karen Norberg of the Washington University School of Medicine, was first released by the National Bureau of Economic Research in February.


Posted by kavan at May 10, 2007 3:37 PM