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Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature

  • Jeffrey R Lacasse,
  • Jonathan Leo mail

    To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

  • Published: November 08, 2005
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020392

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Why Did the FDA Approve These Advertisements?

Posted by plosmedicine on 30 Mar 2009 at 23:48 GMT

Author: David Oaks
Position: Director
Institution: MindFreedom International
Submitted Date: November 08, 2005
Published Date: November 11, 2005
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Thank you for publishing this important and methodical essay that debunks the "chemical imbalance" advertisements for psychiatric drugs. Why would the US Food and Drug Administration approve such ads? Our human rights group MindFreedom International has been asking that question for a long time. On behalf of MindFreedom, US Senator Ron Wyden contacted the FDA for an explanation about why they approve such advertising. In their response -- which took over one year to receive-- the FDA could cite no scientific literature or studies. It turns out there's a good reason the FDA can't find any scientific evidence for the claims of a "chemical imbalance" in these ads: the scientific evidence in support of the serotonin hypothesis is very weak.

Readers who would like more information about the psychiatric industry's advertising suggesting a "chemical imbalance" in depression may be interested in the following: (1) MindFreedom's debate with Pfizer, Inc., manufacturer of Zoloft, at http://www.mindfreedom.or... (2) A historic debate with the American Psychiatric Association resulting from MindFreedom's 2003 hunger strike, at http://www.mindfreedom.or... (Researcher Jonathan Leo was on the MindFreedom International Scientific Panel for the hunger strike).


David Oaks, Director

MindFreedom International
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Eugene, OR 97440-3484 USA

email: fax: (541) 345-3737
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USA toll free: 1-877-MAD-PRIDE / 1-877-623-7743

MIND YOUR FREEDOM: United Action for Human Rights.

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Competing interests declared: In the interests of full disclosure, I direct MindFreedom International, a nonprofit human rights organization. We are pro-choice on psychiatric drugs and many of our members choose to take prescribed psychiatric drugs. However, we have engaged in protests of what we perceive as the psychiatric drug industry's unfair dominance of the mental health system.