The depression and anxiety treatments used to treat patients with depression and other mental illnesses are not as effective as they once were, a new study has found.
In the study, researchers from the University of Cambridge compared the effectiveness of antidepressants and placebo medications in treating depression and panic disorder.
They found the effectiveness was now better than the placebo drugs used for other conditions such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
This suggests that although the drugs can help relieve depression and trigger the symptoms, they can’t replace the underlying mental health problems that cause the symptoms.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Its authors included Dr Chris Tuffery, Professor of Psychiatry at the University College London and a key contributor to the Cochrane Collaboration, the world’s largest scientific-based evidence base for research.
The researchers used data from more than 12,000 patients treated in England over a 12-year period, with some taking both antidepressants and a placebo for a diagnosis of depression.
The research team used data to assess the effectiveness and safety of both antidepressants, and to measure the effectiveness in terms of depression and psychological distress, in patients.
They looked at both antidepressant and placebo-controlled studies in patients with anxiety disorders and panic disorders, and a control group of patients with no diagnoses.
The primary outcome measure was a clinical depression rating scale (CDR-15) with 10 points.
The secondary outcome measures included an affective state (CBD-11), a quality of life measure, a quality-of-life scale for depression, and an anxiety and panic symptom scale.
The results showed that antidepressants did not significantly improve depression or anxiety.
However, the researchers noted that both drugs improved the quality of the patients’ lives, and the effectiveness did not differ significantly.
In contrast, the effectiveness for the placebo was greater than placebo for both depression and overall mental health.
The report also concluded that both antidepressants were generally well tolerated.
Dr Tuffey said:”Although both antidepressants are currently available, and both drugs are safe, the findings are consistent with a range of other evidence that these drugs may help relieve symptoms of depression, but not to cure it.”
He added: “The fact that both the antidepressants and the placebo improve quality of patients’ quality of lives suggests that they are not effective treatments for depression.”
Dr Tufey said the new research emphasises the need for clinical trials to confirm the effectiveness, safety and tolerability of antidepressants for depression and related conditions.
“For those who take antidepressants, there is no guarantee that they will treat their depression in a way that they think will help,” he said.