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Multiple possible inaccuracies cast doubt on a recent report suggesting selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to be toxic and ineffective.

Journal article
Authors Fredrik Hieronymus
Alexander Lisinski
Jakob Näslund
Elias Eriksson
Published in Acta Neuropsychiatrica
Volume 30
Issue 5
Pages 244-250
ISSN 1601-5215
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Pharmacology
Pages 244-250
Language en
Subject categories Pharmacology, Psychiatry


According to a systematic review on the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in adult depression that was recently published in BMC Psychiatry, the results of which have been widely disseminated in lay media, these drugs increase the risk for serious adverse events (SAEs) while exerting poor antidepressant efficacy. A cursory analysis, however, suggests the analysis of SAEs conducted by the authors to be marred by both methodological inaccuracies and blatant errors. After having corrected for these apparent mistakes, we conducted a sensitivity analysis in which we also accounted for a possible moderating effect of age; while this suggests SSRIs to be safe drugs in the non-elderly, they do confirm what is already known, that is, that they may enhance the risk for SAEs in the old. Given the loose definition of SAE, including also innocuous phenomena, the possible clinical significance of the latter observation, however, remains unclear until the nature and actual impact of the SAEs in question have been clarified. Moreover, with respect to efficacy, we find the paper in BMC Psychiatry misleading: first, the authors seem unaware of the well-established shortcomings associated with the conventional efficacy parameter on which their analysis is based, second, they have included suboptimal SSRI doses and third, they have missed some pivotal trials. Unless there are explanations for the many peculiarities in this paper that have escaped us, and which may be satisfactorily clarified by the authors, it seems important that the conclusions presented in this paper be publicly rectified.

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