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Bad Medicine? The data on anti-depressants and child suicide arenít conclusive.
The media's emotionally fraught coverage of how the FDA has handled the issue of pediatric suicide risk with antidepressant use is illustrative of why we have the FDA to begin with: to parse difficult, sometime contradictory data and come up with sensible recommendations as to whether or not a given medication, on balance, improves the public health.
Antidepressants undoubtedly have powerful health benefits that warrant their use, although the debate over their use in pediatric patients is highly complex and will probably remain that way for some time. Still, fear mongering or pharma bashing over the issue is likely to do more harm than good.
Satel's commentary ranks among the very best on this issue, not least for its conclusion: "Anyone looking for clear and simple answers here will be frustrated. Of course, that provides no solace to parents who have lost a child. But the emotional weight of the issue must not deform facts, drive public policy, or stymie further research. It is clear that authentic major depression in children is a serious matter. Accurate diagnosis and careful treatment will save many more lives than might be lost through the use of these drugs."
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