Dr James Davies discusses new antidepressant findings on Newsnight

  • Friday, February 23, 2018

New research into antidepressants has generated much excitement in the media and the psychiatric community. The study has been described as 'finally putting to bed the controversy on antidepressants'. However, Roehampton's Dr James Davies suggests it may not be that simple.

Image - Dr James Davies discusses new antidepressant findings on Newsnight

Dr James Davies of the University's Department of Life Sciences appeared on BBC's Newsnight on Thursday to discuss new research widely reported as showing that antidepressants are an effective treatment for depression.

Dr Davies contested this interpretation of the results, arguing that many of the positive effects can be attributed to the placebo effect—the well-documented phenomenon whereby patients feel better simply because they are receiving a treatment and not because of anything the treatment itself does. He further suggested that the limited scope of the trial (8 weeks studying patients with severe or moderate depression) meant that the results were far more limited than the press coverage suggested.

Dr Davies says, 'The study supports the view that various drugs can have an impact on our mood, thoughts and motivation, but also differences between placebo and antidepressants are so minor that they are clinically insignificant, hardly registering at all in a person’s actual experience.

'This study, and the media coverage that has accompanied it, will unfortunately do nothing to help reduce the level of unnecessary prescribing and consequent harm, particularly, to the one-third of patients who are prescribed antidepressants against current guidelines'.

Watch the full interview with Dr Davies on BBC's iPlayer. You can also read the original study at the Lancet.