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Late - but anti-depressant warning welcomed

22 October, 2004

Nine months late - but anti-depressant warning welcomed

Green MP Sue Kedgley said she strongly supported Medsafe's decision to issue warnings on the use of SSRI anti-depressants by children and young people - even though it came nine months after similar warnings had been issued overseas.

"It is crucial that patients, parents and doctors are fully informed of the risks of giving anti-depressants to young people," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Health spokesperson.

"The evidence has been clear for long enough that young people on SSRI medication are exposed to increased risk of suicidal thoughts and potentially harmful behaviour.

"It is a basic consumer right to know the potential risks of medication, so why was Medsafe issuing the warning more than nine months after similar moves overseas?" asked Ms Kedgley, who had called for warnings to be issued in March of this year.

Ms Kedgley said that claims made today by Professor John Werry about the safety of prescribing anti-depressants to children and young people contradicted a wealth of international evidence.

"I invite Professor Werry to take another look at the evidence," said Ms Kedgley. "The available data, including Glaxo Smith Klein's own studies, clearly show an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in young people.

"Glaxo Smith Klein knew as long ago as 1998 that the anti-depressant drug Aropax had no beneficial effect on children with depression, but held back its data in order to minimise any negative commercial impact.

"In fact, if you give depressed young people sugar pills they are less likely to think about killing themselves than if you give them Aropax, but this information had been suppressed at the time," she said.

Ms Kedgley added that doctors were prescribing SSRI anti-depressants to an estimated 2600 young New Zealanders despite never having been approved or licensed by Medsafe for children and young people.

"It appears that some doctors have been choosing medication for young patients instead of therapy and counselling, simply because of a lack of available counselling and psychotherapy services for young people.

"We should be offering young people the best possible counselling services instead of relying on anti-depressants which have significant side effects. But because of a lack of available counselling services, it is often difficult for doctors to refer people to counselling and medication is the only option," she said.


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