Intimacy problems are a known side-effect of depression pills — but one that affected patients say they weren’t properly warned about by their doctors.
Worse, for some, these problems can last for years, even after they’ve eventually come off their medication.
Yet campaigners say patients’ complaints have largely fallen on deaf ears, with the medical profession and drug companies either saying that the symptoms were not connected to the tablets, or assuring patients their problems would disappear once they stopped taking them.
But, today, in a victory for these very patients and the Daily Mail, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced it’s now advising that a commonly prescribed group of depression pills — namely, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — should carry warnings about the risk of longer term enduring dysfunction.
At the moment, SSRI patient information leaflets warn about the possibility of short-term problems, but not that there can be long-term issues or that these may persist, even after the medication has been stopped.
These drugs are a lifesaver for many people. However, the risk of problems has been downplayed or ignored say campaigners — one 2001 study estimated that 50 per cent of those taking SSRIs are affected to some degree, although product leaflets suggest just 10 per cent experience some temporary loss of function.
There has been no acknowledgement of the risk of long-term and, sometimes, permanent, problems.
Professor David Baldwin, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists says why patients experience problems even after antidepressant treatment has ended is unclear.
‘This is poorly understood and has been hard to research, because of potential confounds such as ageing and physical illness, together with embarrassment about discussing intimate concerns,’ he says.