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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Feb 27, 2018


The big news in psychiatry this month is Cipriani et al’s Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. It purports to be the last word in the “do antidepressants work?” question, and a first (or at least early) word in the under-asked “which antidepressants are best?” question.

This study is very big, very sophisticated, and must have taken a very impressive amount of work. It meta-analyzes virtually every RCT of antidepressants ever done – 522 in all – then throws every statistical trick in the book at them to try to glob together into a coherent account of how antidepressants work. It includes Andrea Cipriani, one of the most famous research psychiatrists in the world – and John Ioannidis, one of the most famous statisticians. It’s been covered in news sources around the world: my favorite headline is Newsweek’s unsubtle Antidepressants Do Work And Many More People Should Take Them, but honorable mention to Reuters’ Study Seeks To End Antidepressant Debate: The Drugs Do Work.