, Canada (PressExposure) July 03, 2008 -- In the wake of a May 8th Congressional hearing on the deceptive tactics used in direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is joining consumers in calling for the removal of fraudulent claims by drug manufacturers--the most egregious being the fraudulent and unproven claim that depression is due to a "chemical imbalance" and that antidepressants work to correct this imbalance. Increasing the concern about these misleading messages, a new study published in the June issue of Journal of Business Ethics found that DTC ads for antidepressants manipulate society's view of depression, creating an over-inflated perception of the prevalence of depression. With widely-prescribed antidepressants already raking in $12 billion annually in U.S. sales, CCHR maintains that the psycho-pharmaceutical industry is using DTC ads as a marketing tool to expand their consumer base, by portraying depression as a "disease" caused by a chemical imbalance, requiring expensive mind-altering drugs as "treatment."
In his book Blaming the Brain (1998), neuroscientist Elliot Valenstein wrote, "Although it is often stated with great confidence that depressed people have a serotonin or norepinephrine [brain chemicals] deficiency, the evidence actually contradicts these claims."
An article in the November 2007 issue of the journal Society entitled, "The Media and the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression," reaches a similar conclusion. Authors Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse write, "The advertisement takes a correlation between serotonin shortage and psychological stress--and even this is highly questionable and unverifiable in any individual case--and makes a leap of faith to the conclusion that depression is caused by a serotonin imbalance...And the marketing did not stop with depression; eventually we were told that whatever our problems might be, whether anxiety, excessive shyness, depression, or the inability to pay attention, the underlying cause was a faulty transmitter level which could be rectified with a pill."
Despite the growing controversy over advertising directly to consumers--a practice permitted only in the United States and New Zealand--spending on these advertisements reached $4.5 billion in 2006. Following the passage of stronger drug safety legislation late last year, a crackdown has already begun on the fraudulent marketing of antidepressants. In December, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a letter to drug manufacturer Wyeth criticizing their ads for the antidepressant Effexor, saying that the ads minimize the risks and overstate the effectiveness of the drug. The following month, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that unfavorable antidepressant trials were not being published or were being skewed to seem favorable--showing that even the available clinical trial data on the drugs' "efficacy" cannot be relied upon as accurate.
CCHR urges the FDA to do more to regulate the misleading messages in DTC ads. A 2003 Consumers Union analysis of several years of drug ads found "a broad and disconcerting range of misleading messages" including "ads that minimized the product risk" and "exaggerated its efficacy." Leo and Lacasse conclude in a 2005 essay in the Public Library of Science Medicine, entitled "Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature," that "The incongruence [disagreement] between the scientific literature and the claims made in FDA-regulated SSRI [Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor - newer antidepressant] advertisements is remarkable, and possibly unparalleled."
Psychiatrists themselves admit there are no tests, such as brain scans, x-rays, urine samples or any chemical imbalance tests that can verify the existence of psychiatric disorders. Click here for more information about the chemical imbalance hoax.