HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Mental Health Drugs Update

Pills According to the Wall Street Journal, the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, after an 18-month review, decided to strengthen its warnings regarding antidepressant medication use, “advising doctors not to prescribe them for the initial treatment of mild depression and to better communicate the withdrawal symptoms and other side effects.” The agency also reported that its review team concluded that antidepressants were being overprescribed and “reminded doctors that counseling can be as effective as drug treatments” in treating cases of mild depression. Overall, however, the agency concluded that the benefits of antidepressants outweigh the risks.  The article appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, its website requires a paid subscription for access.

In a separate matter, the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has required that Wyeth change the label of two antidepressants it manufactures, Efexor and Efexor XL, to warn consumers about the possible effects the drugs can have on cardiovascular health as well as other possible dangers. Wyeth responded that the agency has indicated that this interim labeling will recommend that patients receive a baseline electrocardiogram when the drugs are first prescribed and that the drugs are indicated for moderate to severe conditions, among other items. Wyeth announced that the company will “fight” the agency’s action and reaffirmed the safety and efficacy of the two drugs.

Finally, on a related note, Consumer Reports magazine will launch tomorrow a new Web site ( that compares the cost and effectiveness of a few types of commonly prescribed medications. Anyone may access the website free of charge.  States already have access to this type of information for use in their Medicaid programs.  According to Consumer Reports, this service “will make similar information available for other low-income consumers, like senior citizens and people whose insurance does not cover prescription drugs.”

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