Antidepressant Studies Distort Drugs' Usefulness

New study says negative reports often go unpublished
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2008 9:37 PM CST
Researchers found that Zoloft was closer to having a "small" effect for people taking it when all of the data is considered. When primarily positive results are all that is published, the drug was shown...   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Roughly half of the medical studies involving antidepressants that found little or no effect on patients have gone unpublished or had their findings mischaracterized as positive, a new study reveals. The emphasis on publishing only studies with glowing reviews gives patients and doctors a false sense of the effectiveness of drugs such as Zoloft and Effexor, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Of 74 studies submitted by pharmaceutical companies to the FDA between 1987 and 2004, 36 found negative results. Of those, all but three never got published or were published only after they presented negative findings as positive. The report’s lead researcher, a former FDA reviewer, said even ex-colleagues were unaware of the negative literature. "There is a view that these drugs are effective all the time," he said. "I would say they only work 40% to 50% of the time."