Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fishing for Depression Patients

I knew last summer when I saw the headline that there had to be a new depression medication out. How? The news was "All Americans Should be Screened for Depression."(1) That's a good idea because, as you know, depression is a menace, affecting tens of millions and leaving many of its victims tired, overweight, prone to heart disease, impotent, blind, and--wait, I'm thinking of diabetes. It might make sense to screen everyone for diabetes. No, the reason for screening everyone for depression, I figured, was that there was a new drug someone was looking to peddle. Sure enough, the FDA approved a depression drug a few weeks earlier.(2)

Some doctors are already screening patients--like me--for depression during routine office visits. My invoice for being seen for a puncture wound included "brief behavioral assessment," which I didn't remember getting. When I called the office about it, they said they gave everyone that assessment through a questionnaire. I do remember filling out a large amount of paperwork.

Some depression drugs have been shown to be no more effective than a placebo and can have serious side effects. Further, it's one more thing for doctors and patients--many in an overburdened system--have to do. This particular drug may even kill you--there's a warning about suicidal thoughts and increased risk of death for certain patients, and weight gain and a sense of restlessness common among people in a study who took the drug. And all they got was a lousy reduction of symptoms. (3)

The article about recommending depression screening made no mention of the other trade-offs involved in adding another step to routine patient visits: more time filling out paperwork for patients, more prescriptions that may or may not do any good, and less time and money for everything else that doctors and patients already have on their plates.


  1. "All Americans Should be Screened for Depression, Panel Recommends" by Andrew M. Seaman. Huffington Post, July 8, 2015.
  2. "FDA Approved New Drug, Rexulti, for Depression, Schizophrenia" by Robert Preidt. July 13, 2015.
  3. Ibid.