Quick Hits: Antidepressant Side Effects, Drug Website Risk Information, & More

A controversial new study claims healthy people — who have no prior history of mental illness — that are given antidepressants are twice as likely to become violent and suicidal as those not on the drugs. While for years antidepressants have had a strong “black box” warning on the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, adolescents and young people taking the drugs, the study is the first to examine this risk in healthy adults. Researchers examined 13 trials involving antidepressants that enrolled a total of 612 patients. They found that health volunteers treated with antidepressants had a 1.85 times higher risk of harm related to suicidality and violence. Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the researchers also claim that prior studies have underestimated the harms associated with antidepressants. “It is well documented that drug companies under-report seriously the harms of antidepressants related to suicide and violence, either by simply omitting them from reports, by calling them something else or by committing scientific misconduct.” Posted October 11, 2016. Via the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Although websites for prescription drugs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies have risk disclosures, most people visiting them do not notice or take the time to read them. Two researchers enrolled 29 people with seasonal allergies. The participants were told they were investigating how people look for health information online and that they would be looking at a website for a new prescription allergy drug. The researchers used eye tracking to determine where and how long the people looked at each part of the site, as well as survey questions asking how much risk information they read. Although 80% of the participants claimed to have read at least half of the risk information, the eye tracking data and their responses to questions about the risks associated with the drug showed otherwise. The researchers suggest that risks be presented before benefits and risk information should be highlighted with borders or colors. Posted October 12, 2016. Via Journal of Risk Research.

While fewer Americans are taking a daily multivitamin pill, more of them instead are turning to fish oil and vitamin D pills, as well as probiotics. In 2012, about half of Americans were taking some kind of dietary supplement, a figure that was about the same as in 1999. In 2000, 37% of adults were taking a multivitamin, according to data published in JAMA. By 2012, that number dropped to 31%. Meanwhile, over the same period, vitamin D supplement use surged from 5.1% to 19%, and fish oil pills rose from 1.3% to 12%. Use of supplements with vitamins C and E, as well as selenium — all antioxidants — also dropped. Posted October 11, 2016. Via JAMA.

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is a freelance writer and former MedShadow content editor. He has been an editor and writer for multiple pharmaceutical, health and medical publications, including BioCentury, The Pink Sheet, Modern Healthcare, Health Plan Week and Psychiatry Advisor. He holds a BA from Tufts University and is earning an MPH with a focus on health policy from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

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