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GeneralJan 21, 2021

Researchers cast doubt on use of antidepressants for back pain and osteoarthritis

Researchers have questioned whether doctors should prescribe antidepressants for people with back pain and osteoarthritis on a routine basis.

A paper, published in The BMJ and written by a team led by Giovanni Ferreira from the University of Sydney, argues that antidepressant drugs are largely ineffective in treating such conditions.


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Turning to the prescription pad to treat back pain is not the answer, say researchers

This is despite them being recommended in most clinical practice guidelines for long-term back pain, and also for hip and knee osteoarthritis.

The researchers analysed published data from 33 randomised controlled trials in which more than 5,000 adults with low back or neck pain, sciatica, or hip or knee osteoarthritis took part.

Any gains 'not worthwhile' 

Based on ‘moderate certainty evidence’, the researchers conclude that prescribing antidepressants for people with back pain leads to an effect that is too small to be worthwhile – while not ruling out a small beneficial effect for osteoarthritis.

The researchers set a difference of 10 points on a 0-100-point scale for pain or disability as d...

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