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The drugs do work: as long as you take them!

A recent study, published in the Lancet and widely reported in the media, has concluded that using drugs for the treatment of depression is effective. And the study generously concluded that, overall, drugs and the ‘Talking Therapies’ are equally effective.

But there is a detail that many commentators conveniently failed to draw out. On the one hand the best-known antidepressant of them all, Prozac – was among the least effective of the drugs but was the best tolerated and had the lowest rate of patient drop-outs. Conversely, the most effective drug scored much lower for patient tolerance. ‘Tolerance’ here meaning there were fewer side-effects.

So, it seems an issue faced by those dealing with depression and other seemingly intractable conditions is how to ensure that, in the longer term, the treatment of the condition is sustained. It’s easy to think the answer is to get a course of pills, and advertising by the large pharma certainly aims to spread that belief, but that is not always the best route to take. Given the relatively high rates of drop out and the high cost of medicines, the responsibility or accountabi