Antidepressant prescribing and informed consent

I have submitted the following to the BMJ in response to this research news: Large meta-analysis ends doubts about efficacy of antidepressants

In Scotland, it is estimated that 1 in 7 adults are taking antidepressants, and it seems that the majority are taking them either in the long term or indefinitely. This meta-analysis does not help us evidence the basis for such prescribing. Indeed, it is surely a concern that there is such a dearth of long term studies on antidepressants. This is an indictment against the scientific community given that antidepressants have been in use for well over 50 years.

Scotland has had a number of parliamentary inquiries into medical treatments in recent years and our Chief Medical Officer has, as part of her Realistic Medicine campaign, repeatedly stressed the importance of “fully informed consent”.

I welcome this meta-analysis. I hope that it will act as a “wake up call”. When prescribing antidepressants, as part of fully informed consent, we should be explaining to patients that they may find that they will be taking antidepressants in the long term or perhaps indefinitely and that there is a lack of evidence to support this practice.