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Study Calls Coverage of Antidepressants Insufficient

Stories often failed to communicate important health messages about suicidality risk in children

MONDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The news media often failed to convey important health messages regarding pediatric antidepressants after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of an increased suicidality risk in children taking the drugs, according to a study published online Dec. 7 in Pediatrics.

Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D., and Susan H. Busch, Ph.D., from Yale University in New Haven, Conn., evaluated the quality, content, and overall impression of news coverage (167 stories from print and television) in the United States regarding a black box warning added to antidepressants in 2004 by the FDA describing an increased risk of suicidality in children.

The researchers found that nearly all stories (97.6 percent) correctly reported that pediatric antidepressant use was associated with an increased risk of suicidality rather than suicide. However, only 43 percent described the importance of monitoring children using antidepressants, only 40 percent noted that fluoxetine was the only FDA-approved medication for pediatric depression, and only 13 percent reported that medication should be tapered when discontinued. News stories often focused on children harmed rather than helped by antidepressants, while expert sources often focused on the benefits of antidepressants over their risks. Most news stories became increasingly neutral over time, with no clear indication of the risks or benefits or antidepressants.

"Because depression is an under-treated disease with the potential for long-term negative consequences, the sharp decreases in pediatric antidepressant use that occurred in the aftermath of the FDA risk disclosure are troubling, to the extent that they represent an increase in unmet need," Barry and Busch conclude.

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