How Clinical Depression Studies Are Fudged
Before we look at the specific tactics used in antidepressant testing, let’s step back and look at the big picture of clinical depression and the attempts to profit from it.
It takes several hundred million dollars (depending on whom you believe) to bring a new prescription drug to market. That’s a major chunk of change for anybody, or any company.
Researchers must answer to their supervisors, who must answer to their supervisors, who must answer to their superiors, who must answer to the company leaders, who must answer to the stockholders…. (Who must answer to their spouses!)
There’s enormous pressure all the way up and down the line to bring this new drug, whatever it is, to market. The company must recoup the staggering investment of time and money that goes into a drug’s development.
Remember, a business exists to make a profit. No profit, – no business, and thus more unemployed workers. Nobody wants that.
Beyond the drug companies own research, there are many additional clinical studies performed on depression medications after they have been approved and released into the marketplace.
Who funds these studies? There aren’t too many researchers who are going to pull money out of their own pockets to pay for a study on the long-term effects of Paxil, for example. If you were a scientist studying prescription drug efficacy, who would be paying your bills?
Could you remain unbiased if your future funding depended upon a favorable outcome for your present study? While most researchers maintain impeccable standards and integrity (such as my own father), I merely want to point out the potential for abuse.
Always look to who is funding the study!
As I am writing this, I hear on the news about a clinical depression study on antidepressants from Duke University that concluded placebo produced better results than either St. John’s Wort or zoloft. Zoloft maker Pfizer called the results “confusing”. (Yeah, I’d be confused, too…!)
Anyway, not much researcher bias there, I suppose, unless they work for the makers of the placebo!
Given this context, it’s important to look at the methodology of clinical drug research. The procedures used are much more important than the actual drug being studied – in terms of what the results will be.
Far too many studies are not well designed, and admittedly use low standards to ‘prove’ their results. (It’s like if the Consumer Reports car-testing division were all staffed by car salesmen!)
For example, severely depressed people are routinely excluded from drug trials. This segment of the depressed population, those who need help the most, presumably would not realize any favorable improvement and would merely ‘taint’ the results being sought.
Having even more impact is the technique of ‘prescreening’ all potential drug study participants for placebo reactions.
It’s common for all patients entering a drug study to be given a placebo for one week. Those who show improvement are dismissed from the study. Typically this amounts to anywhere from one quarter up to one half of all participants!
The bottom line in all this, is that potential drug study participants are scrutinized, evaluated, screened and perhaps even discarded not unlikethe potential jurors for a high-profile murder case.
Given these current standards, I believe even opium could be ‘proven’ to be as safe and effective as any other antidepressant.
I know I could do it with alcohol. (Just weed out the alcoholics and serve the rest free beer!)
Ahead to 3. The truth about dependency and withdrawal symptoms.