WorldNetDaily managing editor David Kupelian loves to fearmonger about antidepressants. He does so again in a March 16 WND column:
Without a doubt, they’re two of today’s most alarming health trends:
- A staggering one in every 50 American children now has some form of autism, according to the most recent reporting from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The number of people now taking antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Luvox and Celexa – all with the FDA’s scary “black box” suicidality warning label – has become equally stratospheric, with 11 percent of all Americans 12-and-over taking them, and an astonishing 23 percent – almost one in four – of women in their 40s and 50s.
These two megatrends intersect, researchers say, when pregnant women are treated for depression, anxiety and other maladies with antidepressants.
Indeed, multiple studies conducted over several years now lead research scientists to conclude that women taking any brand of modern antidepressants – commonly called “SSRIs” (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) – while pregnant run an increased risk of giving birth to a child with an autism spectrum disorder.
Yet, the public – most importantly, the tens of millions of American women currently taking antidepressants, including 7-13 percent of all pregnant women – strangely has heard very little about this research and its important implications.
Perhaps that's because such research is not conclusive.
He highlights a two-year-old "groundbreaking peer-reviewed study out of California-based Kaiser Permanente documented a significantly increased prevalence of children born with autism spectrum disorders in pregnant mothers taking antidepressants, especially during the first trimester, compared with mothers not taking such medications." But he buries mention of a Danish study published in December found no increased risk. WebMD goes on to summarize the limits of previous studies, including the one Kupelian highlighted:
In one recent U.S. study, mothers' SSRI use during pregnancy was tied to a twofold increase in the odds that her child would have autism. A Swedish study saw a similar pattern, though the risk linked to the drugs was smaller.
But both studies included only small numbers of children who had autism and were exposed to antidepressants in the womb.
The new study is "the largest to date" to look at the issue, using records for more than 600,000 children born in Denmark, said lead researcher Anders Hviid, of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen.
And overall, his team found, there was no clear link between SSRI use during pregnancy and children's autism risk.
WebMD goes on to point out it may be the underlying depression, and not the antidepressant, that contributes to increased autism risk. Indeed, in the Danish study, "once the researchers factored in the psychiatric disorders themselves, that statistical link fell away."
Kupelian tries to pick apart that study, relying on the Kaiser Permanente researcher who gave the results he wanted. He also quotes Dr. David Healy, who has been accused of fearmongering about every drug approved since 1990.
Should the risks of antidepressants be investigated? Absolutely. But Kupelian is an unreliable messenger -- as we've documented, he blamed Andrea Yates killing her five children on antidepressant use, ignoring the fact that Yates and her husband were in thrall to a fundamentalist Christian minister who led them to live a needlessly austere lifestyle.
Kupelian is not speaking knowledgably -- he's simply trying to scare people.