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Show 1075: Are Drugs for Mental Illness Safe and Effective?

Show 1075: Are Drugs for Mental Illness Safe and Effective?

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The FDA is charged with making sure that prescription drugs are both safe and effective. But questions have been raised about antidepressants and other drugs for mental illness. Exactly how effective are these medications to treat psychiatric conditions? Are they safe?

How Well Do Antidepressants Work?

Dr. Peter Gøtzsche, a founder of the nonprofit Cochrane Collaboration that evaluates the effectiveness of treatments has taken a hard look at antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) or venlafaxine (Effexor). He presents data showing that these drugs, on average, don't treat depression well.

Side Effects from Drugs for Mental Illness:

We also speak with Thomas J. Moore, who has examined the reports of serious side effects that have been submitted to the FDA. He has found a number of alarming adverse reactions linked to antipsychotic medications and other drugs for mental illness. Some of these drugs are prescribed in addition to antidepressants when depression fails to respond.

What Can Be Done?

Do not despair! Dr. Samantha Boardman is a psychiatrist who has found a number of other ways to help people overcome their depression. Learn about non-drug approaches that can help improve mood and coping skills.

This Week's Guests:

Peter Gøtzsche, MD, is professor of clinical research design and analysis at the University of Copenhagen. He co-founded the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 and is currently director at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen. Dr. Gøtzsche, a specialist in internal medicine, worked in clinical trials and regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry between 1975 and 1983. He is a member of several groups publishing guidelines for good reporting of research and has co-authored CONSORT for randomized trials (, STROBE for observational studies (, PRISMA for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (, and SPIRIT for trial protocols ( He is author of Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime as well as Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial. His website is

Thomas J. Moore is a senior scientist at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. He is project director for QuarterWatch, a publication that monitors FDA MedWatch reports. The ISMP website is

Samantha Boardman, MD, is a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College. She received her B.A. from Harvard University, an M.A. in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College, where she was awarded the Oskar Diethelm Prize for Excellence in Psychiatry. Dr. Boardman has published papers in journals including Translational Neuroscience, The American Journal of Psychiatry and The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Her blog,, shares insights from the psychiatry and psychology community with readers, and explores the way psychology, culture and science intersect. Dr. Boardman lives and works in New York City. Other links: on Facebook  on Twitter @sambmd  and on Instagram

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