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NPR Morning Edition - Transcript

Location: Unknown

National Public Radio (NPR)

SHOW: Morning Edition 11:00 AM EST NPR

HEADLINE: Lawmakers grill drug companies and find many are not disclosing enough information on anti-depressants






In a hearing room jam-packed with industry executives, lobbyists and reporters, lawmakers recited a few basic facts. Millions of American children take Prozac-like anti-depressants each year. Apart from Prozac itself, none of these drugs has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in children. And doctors have learned recently that many studies suggest these drugs may actually raise the risk of suicidal thought and behavior in children.

(Soundbite of hearing)

Representative GREG WALDEN (Republican, Oregon): So it's time to ask the tough questions. Are America's kids being prescribed drugs for depression that are no better than sugar pills yet may nearly double their risk of suicidal behavior and thought?

PRAKASH: Republican Greg Walden of Oregon is a member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

(Soundbite of hearing)

Rep. WALDEN: Are the companies who sell these drugs adequately disclosing the results of their trials in ways that allow parents and physicians to get all of the facts?

PRAKASH: By the end of the day, it was clear that many lawmakers from both parties have come to believe the answer to that question is no. Here's one of many reasons why: It turns out that between 1999 and 2001, the drug company Pfizer conducted two studies to test its drug Zoloft in depressed children. Neither study showed the drug worked, and in 2002, the FDA refused to approve Zoloft for children. Pfizer didn't tell the public that, even though Zoloft had become a popular drug for childhood depression, nor did the FDA, because they deemed the studies proprietary.

The picture was to get even murkier. The following year, Pfizer published what it touted as the largest positive study of anti-depressants in children. It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That's one of the most influential medical journals. Surprisingly, the paper was based on data from the two unsuccessful studies. Here's Greg Walden again, quizzing Pfizer's Cathryn Clary.

(Soundbite of hearing)

Rep. WALDEN: Where I'm confused is if the two individual studies showed no efficacy, how do you arrive at this conclusion that it's the largest positive study?

Ms. CATHRYN CLARY (Pfizer): The paper was about a combined analysis.

Rep. WALDEN: But you said earlier the independent studies showed it really didn't have an efficacy in pediatric MDD, right?--two separate studies on their own.

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