Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Drug ads: overselling the serotonin boost?

Can depression be explained by a simple chemical imbalance in the brain? A pair of researchers has complained that the evidence for this is weak, and that drug companies should not be allowed to push this message in their advertisements.

After being bombarded by messages that depression is caused by the lack of a certain chemical in the brain, say the researchers, patients may be sceptical of other kinds of treatment, including other drugs and talking to a therapist. 'That message [in the advertisements] is at odds with what's in the scientific literature,' says Jonathan Leo of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, Florida, who co-authors an essay on the subject in PLoS Medicine this week. The duo would like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates drug advertising in the United States, to take a look at antidepressant ads and issue warnings to any firm that does not comply with its rules.

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