Psych Meds are as Good as it Gets

Psychiatric medications often under fire are as effective as medications for general medicine study says

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Drugs used to treat psychiatric conditions are often criticized. But, how do they compare to drugs used to treat other medical conditions?

Medications to treat psychiatric conditions are often under fire from the media. 

This is, in part, because many psychiatric conditions cannot be diagnosed with medical tests and because the disease process is not well understood for many of the conditions.

When psychiatric medications were compared to drugs used in general medicine, they showed similar levels of effectiveness in treating the conditions for which they are approved.

"Keep your doctor informed about all your medications"

To address some of the concerns about the effectiveness of psychiatric medications, researchers, led by Stefan Leucht, MD, at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Munich Technical in Germany, looked at 94 published reports that compared drug effects. 

The reports they looked at covered 48 drugs to treat 20 different general medical conditions, such as hypertension, stroke, ulcerative colitis. The papers also included 16 different drugs to treat eight psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia, mania, panic disorder, bipolar, and ADHD. 

They found that, overall, the drugs to treat psychiatric conditions showed a similar profile of effectiveness as the drugs used to treat general medical conditions. 

The authors of this report noted that the numbers given in clinical trials showing effectiveness should not be the only measure of whether or not psychiatric drugs are worthwhile.

They stated in the abstract that, “The increment of improvement by drug over placebo must be viewed in the context of the disease’s seriousness, suffering induced, natural course, duration, outcomes, adverse events and societal values.”

Medications in both general medicine and psychiatric medicine may work for some people and not others. Dr. Leucht’s report shows that psychiatric medications appear to be as good as those used for general medicine in terms of the effectiveness in treating their specified condition when looking at published reports. 

Effectiveness in clinical settings may not be represented by this study.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) holds psychiatric medications to the same standards as drugs used in general medicine. All medications approved by the FDA must pass rigorous tests to show that they are safe for patients to take and that they do, in fact, help people with their condition. 

The study was published in the February issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. Authors in this study report financial affiliations with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Novartis, among others.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 10, 2012
Last Updated:
May 11, 2012