British drug regulators have recommended against the use of the majority of antidepressants -- with the exception of Prozac -- in children younger than age 18.
Members of the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency sent a letter to doctors and other health professionals that outlined their recommendation. They say a review of data on the safety and effectiveness of SSRIs -- the most commonly prescribed antidepressants -- shows the drugs' benefits do not outweigh their risks when prescribed to children. SSRIs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Regulators say the drugs' effectiveness have not been sufficiently demonstrated in young patients. They also say some SSRIs have been linked to suicidal thoughts and self-harm in children and adolescents.
Regulators say Prozac is the only drug exempted from their list because studies have shown it to be effective in treating depression in children. The agency recommended against all other antidepressants including Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa and Lexapro.
The Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating whether data support a link between suicide and SSRIs in children and will hold a public hearing on the issue. However, some researchers say there is no indication that British regulators had access to any studies that were not already under review by the FDA, and not all American doctors think the recommendation is warranted. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, M.D., from the University of North Carolina, told the New York Times, "I think they're really overreacting. This is really going way too far, and in the process doing more harm than good."
While British regulators strongly recommended against the use of antidepressants in children, they did not recommend completely banning the use of the drugs. They say the drugs may still be appropriate for some children, such as those who cannot tolerate Prozac or children who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. They also say children who are currently taking the drugs should not stop taking them abruptly without consulting with their doctors.