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Prozac `best for children'.

Byline: By Mark Sage

Anti-depressants are the best way to treat children with depression, according to a US government study out yesterday.

The drug Prozac was found to be more effective in helping youngsters overcome depression than counselling, researchers found.

The study comes against a backdrop of intense international debate about the best way to treat depressed children. It is estimated up to 40,000 children and teenagers are taking anti-depressants in the UK.

Regulators have prohibited the use of all anti-depressants other than Prozac for those under 18 in the UK, amid fears that they can lead to suicidal tendencies.

The US study was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and did not have any backing from drugs companies.

Teenagers who were given just counselling showed no better results than those who were given a placebo in the trial.

Those who were given anti-depressants showed the biggest improvement.

When the drug was combined with counselling, the improvement was greater still.

"This study should put to rest doubts about whether these drugs work in teenagers with severe depression," said study author Dr Graham Emslie, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Some 439 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 were involved in the study. All were suffering from moderate to severe depression.

For 36 weeks they were given either Prozac, a placebo or a combination of Prozac and counselling.

According to the data analysed so far, 378 participants completed the first 12 weeks of the 36-week study.

In this time 71pc of the subjects who received Prozac and counselling responded well to treatment, compared with 61pc of those who received just Prozac, 43pc who received just counselling and 35pc who received a placebo.

Regardless of the treatment given, all of the adolescents became less suicidal.

Five of the youths who were given Prozac attempted suicide, there was just one suicide attempt in the other test groups. Despite the findings on suicide, the study authors said the benefits of Prozac outweighed the "extremely rare" risks.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 3, 2004
Words:341
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