Friday, September 14, 2007

Less SSRI's, More Suicide -- Apparently Not

Now that the 2005 suicide data are available from the CDC (as mentioned yesterday), one can see that despite SSRI prescriptions falling, there was apparently a very slight decrease in suicides. That does not lend credence to the story that decreased SSRI use leads to more suicides. The New York Times (Alex Berenson and Ben Carey) has some nice reporting on the story, including some telling quotes. Here's what Thomas R. Ten Have, a biostatistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania had to say regarding the latest study that claimed to show a link between decreased SSRI usage and increased suicide rate:
There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of a statistically significant association between suicide rates and prescription rates provided in the paper.
Yet here's what Dr. John Mann, one of the "experts" on the topic and coauthor of the previously mentioned study had to say:
The most plausible explanation is a cause and effect relationship: prescription rates change, therefore suicides change
Too bad the "most plausible explanation" just got shot down. This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding SSRIs and suicide. More to come at a later date. In the meantime, always be wary when someone notes that two variables are related, then claims that one variable causes another. Be especially wary when it turns out that the correlation is inconsistent or does not even exist, or may perhaps even go in the other direction. More to come another time.

Hat Tip: Furious Seasons.

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