McMaster study warns against antidepressant use

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Medical malpractice lawyers ensure that Canadians are protected from the negligence of medical service providers, including pharmaceutical manufacturers. When a medication or consumer medical product causes harm, a medical malpractice lawyer may be asked to seek compensation for the injured individual.

Canadian doctors prescribe a lot of antidepressants. According to a 2013 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as much as nine per cent of the population may be prescribed antidepressants at any given time, the third highest consumption rate in the developed world behind only Iceland and Australia. In 2015 alone, more than 50 million prescriptions were filled coast to coast.

To be sure, antidepressants save lives by providing much-needed relief for people experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts. However, as the National Post reported in September, psychiatrists and family doctors alike “have been accused by some … of being overly liberal with the use of the mood-altering pills,” prescribing the medication to treat illnesses from mild depression to insomnia to chronic pain. If these aggressive prescribing methods were to result in injury or illness, a medical malpractice lawyer might have grounds to file a personal injury claim. Recent research from McMaster University in Hamilton suggests this scenario is fairly common.

“Most people should not be given these drugs because it looks like, at least in the general population samples, they’re doing more harm than good,” Paul Andrews, the study’s lead author and an evolutionary biologist and associate professor at McMaster, told the Post.

Andrews’ research consisted of a meta-analysis of 16 studies involving close to 380,000 people, some who used antidepressants and some who did not. The research found that antidepressant users had a 33 per cent higher risk of death and 14 per cent higher risk of stroke or heart attack than people who did not use the medication. The study controlled for the higher risk of death generally affiliated with depression.

According to the McMaster study, antidepressant use poses a risk due to the medications’ impact on platelets, small cells that exist in the body’s bloodstream to form clots and stem bleeding. Platelets rely on the chemical serotonin to function properly, and many antidepressants prevent the body’s organs from absorbing serotonin. Thus, antidepressants may act as a de facto blood thinner, making it possible “for a normal person to have increased risk of stroke, or upper GI (gastrointestinal) bleeding or other sorts of abnormal bleeding events that could be harmful or deadly,” Andrews said.

Andrews’ team isn’t alone in linking antidepressant use to negative health outcomes. In January, the Post reported on a separate study which found that antidepressants “are associated with a twofold increase in the odds of developing some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.”

Psychiatric and psychopharmacological experts have greeted Andrews’ and other studies criticizing the use of antidepressants with measured scepticism. Some admitted that the effects of long-term antidepressant use are not yet known, while others cautioned that individual studies are not cause for alarm.

If you have experienced negative outcomes as a result of being prescribed antidepressants, contact a Will Davidson LLP medical malpractice lawyer today to set up a free consultation. Our team can determine whether you have the right to launch a lawsuit and help you on your road to recovery.

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