Demands for ‘flawed’ research casting doubt on effectiveness of antidepressants to be AXED
- University College London claimed low serotonin levels unrelated to depression
- But another group of doctors has criticized the study published last year
A group of doctors is calling for the retraction of an influential study that casts doubt on the effectiveness of antidepressants, claiming it contains “repeated errors” and errors amounting to misinformation.
Last year, researchers at University College London said they had disproved a 1960s theory that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin — a brain chemical believed to regulate mood.
Led by Prof. Joanna Moncrieff, a respected psychiatrist, the study analyzed decades of research involving tens of thousands of patients with depression and controversially concluded that there was “no convincing evidence” of a link between the illness and serotonin.
Most antidepressants, taken by more than seven million Britons, are designed to increase serotonin levels. But now nearly 40 experts have put their names to an article accusing Professor Moncrieff and her colleagues of “substantial bias” against antidepressants.
Professor Joanna Moncrieff, pictured, a consultant psychiatrist at University College London, led a study last year that claimed to have refuted a link between low serotonin levels and depression
One of them, Prof David Nutt, head of the Center for Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘This paper is riddled with flaws and should never have been published in the first place. Yet it has been quoted many times and people believe it to be true. It is essentially disinformation.”
The new paper, published in the scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry, argues that Prof. Moncrieff and her colleagues selectively chose to analyze only historical studies that supported the theory that there was no link between serotonin and depression.
“The authors of this study have repeatedly made mistakes in their research, suggesting they don’t understand how depression affects the brain,” said Dr Sameer Jauhar, a clinical lecturer in affective disorders and psychosis at King’s College London.
“These are drugs that can save lives. The evidence supports that too.”
Prof Moncrieff said: ‘The bottom line is that the authors didn’t want us to do the review because they didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag that there is no evidence for a biological basis for depression.
“We used approved and well-accepted methods and it is incorrect to say that we missed studies. No one believes the serotonin theory of depression anymore, but no one wants to let it go because it’s a convenient myth to support antidepressant prescription.”