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Psychiatric drugs 'effective' in treating physical illness

Meta-analyses of trials involving psychiatric drugs and medicines used to treat many physical conditions including arthritis have indicated psychiatric drugs are just as effective.

Researchers from the Technishe Universitat Munich in Germany examined 33 meta-analyses of 16 psychiatric drugs used to treat disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD.

The team, led by Professor Stefan Leucht, also studied 94 meta-analyses of 48 medicines used to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic asthma, type 2 diabetes and hepatitis C.

They compared the drugs’ effect sizes, with 0.2 indicating a low effect size, and 0.8 or above a high effect size.

Some general medicines had high effect sizes, such as 1.39 for proton pump inhibitors used to treat acid reflux, and 2.27 for interferon to treat hepatitis C.

But other commonly used drugs such as statins and aspirin had small effect sizes, of 0.15 and 0.12 respectively.

The effect sizes for psychiatric drugs were generally found to be in the same range, with antidepressants and antipsychotics showing respective effect sizes of 0.64 and 0.92.

Professor Leucht said: “Our study shows that the psychiatric drugs were not generally inferior to those used in other medical specialties, and the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs is supported by randomised controlled trials.”

Readers' comments (10)

  • This is confusing. Are you saying that psychiatric drugs were used to treat physical conditions or is this about comparing effectiveness of psychiatric drugs on psychiatric patients with non psychiatric drugs on non psychiatric patients? If it's the latter I don't see how this is helpful to nurses to be honest! Or maybe I am missing something...

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  • Agree with above comment, title of the article suggests that they are using psych drugs for physical conditions. However when you follow the link and read the abstract it is about the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs versus the effectiveness of drugs for physical illnesses. It is a meta-analysis, so therefore they are comparing separate drug trials for different medicines used for treating different conditions- 'We included 94 meta-analyses (48 drugs in 20 medical diseases, 16 drugs in 8 psychiatric disorders). There were some general medical drugs with clearly higher effect sizes than the psychotropic agents, but the psychiatric drugs were not generally less efficacious than other drugs. '
    However even the researchers admit there is limited value in such a survey-'Any comparison of different outcomes in different diseases can only serve the purpose of a qualitative perspective. '


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  • Steve Williams

    Anonymous | 1-Feb-2012 11:25 am

    No, you are not missing the point...

    It is a "non-article" - totally devoid of any relevance to nurses - that editors just use to fill column inches (or even pages) in their hard-copy publications to justify their subscription charges.

    It's really quite nonsensical ans there's no need for the Nursing Times to be trying to "pad-out pages" on here because this is a website not a journal.

    Perhaps the NT are getting desperate for genuine copy these days?

    Perhaps they don't understand how the internet works. Perhaps they think it's juat a big system of tubes? :-))

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  • they just poach articles from other newspapers such as the press association and reprint them. what is the point of this. they can be read in the original which is also available free online? what about copyright?

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  • All you posters above are being a bit pompous in my view.

    It's of interest to me since I'm a mental health nurse and it is relevant as the efficacy of these powerful medications is regularly called into question as part of the healthy debate around treatments for psychosis.

    I have to look through lists of articles of no interest to my speciality to find the ones I'm interested in. I am not complaining about this and don't see that you should need to either.

    I thought we were supposed to be an all inclusive profession.

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  • I agree with nick, i found this article interesting. pipe down steve williams.

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  • Like Andrew Panero ,I too found the title of the article misleading. Expecting it to be about the use of psychiatric drugs for physical conditions.

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  • Thank you to Andrew Panero

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  • As a general nurse who posted the original comment, thank you to those who have enlightened me. It would seem it's all in the editing...

    So called psychiatric drugs are encountered by general nurses so we are interested in articles that genuinely set out to inform us. My own mother is taking medication for stress and anxiety due to living with my "demented" father. I know someone who is a psychiatric patient who is being treated with non psychiatric meds.

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  • Forgot to say that my mother is doing well on her psychiatric drug. I know it works for her because on one occasion she had run out and her symptoms returned very quickly. I asked her was she taking them and she admitted that she had run out. Once re-started she was back to her "old" self again.

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