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Leading psychiatrist: Don’t blame those who take anti-depressants

Sami Pirkola, Professor of Social Psychiatry at the University of Tampere, warns that criticism of anti-depressant treatment may harm those are benefiting from the drugs.

Sami Pirkola Image: Sami Pirkola

“I warn strongly against blaming people who have good reason to use anti-depressant medicines,” says Professor Sami Pirkola of the University of Tampere’s Social Psychiatry unit.

Pirkola was responding to the international debate over whether it is proper to use drugs developed by the pharmaceutical industry as profit-making products. Pirkola agrees that this question is important, but adds that it can obscure the fact that at the same time these companies develop medicines that are of genuine benefit.

“I know from my own professional experience that there are people who truly benefit from various kinds of drugs. As a doctor, I’m glad to be able to offer them this help,” Pirkola tells Yle.

Patients need discussion, not just drugs

There are anecdotes about patients seeking psychiatric treatment who are simply handed prescriptions without the sought-after comprehensive discussions of their condition. Pirkola says this has not been studied or documented, but he does not deny that this may occur.

“It could well be that, in basic health care or occupational health care for instance, doctors are very busy and need to move patients along, so they may prescribe drugs partly out of need but sometimes with a rather low threshold,” Pirkola says. He adds that with these patient groups, there should be a more intensive analysis of each case, and more psychosocial treatment available.

Pirkola, a senior physician at the National Institute for Welfare and Health and former professor of psychiatry at the University of Oulu,is on the panel drawing up new national Current Care Guidelines for the treatment of depression. The new recommendations by the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim are to be ready by the end of this year. The working group’s basic theme is that psychosocial and pharmaceutical treatments together are the best approach to helping patients suffering from severe depression.

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