Last summer’s warnings of the dangerous side effects of certain antidepressants on teenagers haven’t stopped Canadian doctors from prescribing them.
Health Canada warned in July that Paxil and Effexor should not be prescribed to anyone under 18 years of age because they may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.
But sales of the drugs have dropped only slightly since then, which suggests that doctors haven’t changed how they prescribe the drugs.
Dr. Marshall Korenblum, chief of psychiatry at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto, says he has read Health Canada’s warnings and the research, but still prescribes Paxil and Effexor to teens.
“I’m not sure that those studies are valid or completely proven yet. I’m a bit of a skeptic,” says Korenblum.
Dr. David Healy, a world-renowned expert on antidepressants, says doctors need more extensive research on the effects of antidepressants on teens.
But Healy says he’s doubtful drug companies will conduct those studies because they may show increased risk of suicidal thoughts and may affect sales to adults as well.
Doctors are reluctant, though, to abandon drugs that have worked for their patients if the risk is small.
The new research suggests teens are at higher risk of thinking about suicide only when they first start taking the drugs.
“It’s not an outright ban. It’s more in the nature of a strong caution,” says Korenblum.
“My approach has been just to watch and monitor more closely than I have before,” he says.