According to an article today in The New York Times, many doctors could curtail their prescriptions of antidepressants because of a new federal advisory committee's recommendation that the medication should have the alarming "black-box" warning concerning suicide risks in children who take the drugs. Does this spell trouble for the mammoth antidepressant industry?
Granted, despite the recommendation for a black-box warning, the percentage of children and teenagers who would experience suicidal thoughts would be small, according to tests. Further tests on antidepressant use and suicide in adults are in the works.
There is a whole handful of big pharma companies that provide meds for everything from temporary blues or nerves to severe and debilitating depression. Forest Laboratories
The market for antidepressants is a massive one -- $19.97 billion, according to IMS Health. However, I've wondered for quite some time whether the massive market means that antidepressant prescriptions are a little too easy to come by.
OK, sure, lots of us have had plenty of reason over recent years to be stressed, anxious, or depressed. The poor economy, massive layoffs, unemployment or underemployment, code orange terror alerts, runs on duct tape, war, terrorists targeting children, hurricanes -- you name it. There are plenty of reasons people may be feeling down or just plain freaked out. And being a teenager or a young adult is hard, even during less strenuous times than the present.
On the other hand, I've heard a few too many stories of people sent packing from visits to their general practitioner with a sample of the antidepressant flavor of the month and not so much as a physical exam. Is pill dispensation really necessary for the complaint, "I feel kind of crappy"? Heart palpitations would say to me that one might need an EKG before getting a sample pack of meds. I think other solutions to the blues are often given short shrift because of poor insurance coverage and doctors' overloaded schedules.
Don't get me wrong. I believe depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional illnesses and disorders are serious and do exist. And that for many people, antidepressants save lives and banish suicidal thoughts. However, I do wonder whether doctors will heed the labeling concerns and begin to use more prudence with their power for prescription -- and whether that will spell some depressing days ahead for the antidepressant market.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.