Nuance of antidepressant treatment

Actors pretending to be patients with symptoms of stress and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>fatigue were five times as likely to walk out of doctors' offices with a prescription when they mentioned seeing an ad for the heavily promoted antidepressant Paxil, according an unusual study being published today.

The study employed an elaborate ruse -- sending actors with fake symptoms into 152 doctors' offices to see whether they would get prescriptions. Most who did not report symptoms of depression were not given medications, but when they asked for Paxil, 55 percent were given prescriptions, and 50 percent received diagnoses of depression.

The study adds fuel to the growing controversy over the estimated $4 billion a year the drug industry spends on such advertising. Many public health advocates have long complained about ads showing happy people whose lives were changed by a drug, and now voices in Congress, the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Food and Drug Administration and even the pharmaceutical industry are asking whether things have gone too far, reports the Washington Post.

According to Reuters, the standardized patients, who were all nonobese, middle-age women, requested a brand-name medication (Paxil), made a general request for antidepressant treatment, or made no request at all. Altogether, the patients made 298 visits to 152 physicians between 2003 and 2004.

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