The authors of a study allegedly showing that antidepressants prevent suicide have retracted it over unspecified errors. Here’s the notice:
At the request of the authors and in agreement with the Editor-in-Chief and Wiley-Blackwell, the following article “Antidepressant medication prevents suicide in depression”. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2010;122:454–460 has been retracted. The retraction has been requested and agreed due to unintentional errors in the analysis of the data presented.
The original paper linked “data on the toxicological detection of antidepressants in 18 922 suicides in Sweden 1992–2003” to “registers of psychiatric hospitalization as well as registers with sociodemographic data.” It found:
The probability for the toxicological detection of an antidepressant was lowest in the non-suicide controls, higher in suicides, and even higher in suicides that had been psychiatric in-patients but excluding those who had been in-patients for the treatment of depression.
Its conclusion was a bit convoluted:
The finding that in-patient care for depression did not increase the probability of the detection of antidepressants in suicides is difficult to explain other than by the assumption that a substantial number of depressed individuals were saved from suicide by postdischarge treatment with antidepressant medication.
The paper has been cited just four times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. But we understand that other studies by lead author Goran Isacsson are often used by those who support the idea that antidepressants cut down on suicides, and as evidence that the FDA’s “black box warning” on antidepressants should be rewritten. That warning reads, in part:
Antidepressant medicines may increase suicidal thoughts or actions in some children, teenagers, and young adults when the medicine is first started.
Isacsson and a co-author debated the issue with Melissa Raven and a co-author in the June 2010 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. At one point, Raven and Jon Jureidini conclude:
In summary, Isacsson & Rich’s premises are flawed and they have overstated their case with selective citation and biased interpretation of evidence.
We’ve contacted Isacsson as well as the editor of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica to find out what the “unintentional errors” were, and whether any other papers will be affected, and will update with anything we find out.
Update, 11:45 a.m. Eastern, 3/19/12: Isacsson tells us:
We discovered lately that there was a coding error regarding diagnoses in the database we utilized for the 2010 paper. When corrected, antidepressants were detected in depressed suicides as often as could be expected and not less than expected which was the crucial finding in the paper. This means that no conclusion can be drawn from the study regarding antidepressants’ effects on suicide risk in any direction.
The database has not been used for other studies so no other papers are affected.
Hat tip: Bernard Carroll