Battling over happy pills
In this corner: Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School, and frequent critic of the pharmaceutical industry. In the opposite corner: Dr. Peter Kramer, Brown University psychiatry professor and author of the mega-selling “Listening to Prozac,’’ a book that helped convince thousands of Americans to live better, chemically.
At issue: a two-part article by Angell, published in The New York Review of Books, that assails psychiatrists and their pharmaceutical helpmeets, mainly antidepressants, on several fronts.
Item: Angell, quoting, among others, Tufts University psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Carlat, attacks the widely held belief that depression and other mental disorders result from chemical imbalances in the brain. Item: Citing the research of British psychologist Irving Kirsch, Angell writes that some of the most widely used antidepressants, including Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Effexor, performed only marginally better than placeItem: Angell uses a book by journalist Robert Whitaker to suggest that newly minted antipsychotic drugs may be causing “an epidemic of brain dysfunction.’’