Philip over at Furious Seasons thinks that antidepressants shouldn’t be made available over-the-counter in the U.S. (e.g., without a prescription). His entry was based upon this article over at Time magazine that interviews Josephine Johnston, an associate for law and bioethics at the nonpartisan research institute, the Hastings Center.

The real question you have to ask yourself when asking, “When should a drug become commonly available without a prescription?” is weighing the risks of harm versus the benefits of access. It’s a simple equation that can be readily backed by data from empirical, published studies.

With virtually all antidepressants, the risks of harm are still fairly significant. We don’t know quite why they work the way they do, they can take up to 8 to 12 weeks for a person to feel their positive effects, and there seems to be an increased risk of suicidal thinking associated with some of them.

In addition, we’ve seen over the past year how some antidepressants appears to be no more effective than a sugar pill, suggesting much of the positive effects of antidepressants isn’t in their active ingredient, but instead in their role in the treatment process.

So while one can make the argument that popular drugs should become over the counter (why isn’t Viagra available without a prescription then?), it’s a silly and specious argument to make. Why not make stimulants used to treat ADHD widely available? Hey, why stop there, let’s make cocaine available too! You can’t base such decisions on a drug’s “popularity.”

Instead, we need to make decisions about what becomes available over the counter on the data — date showing efficacy and data showing safety. And while all FDA-approved medications are already proven safe and effective, that doesn’t mean they should be made more widely available to anyone without a prescription.

So we agree, while it’s just a hypothetical question, it’s one where the answer is pretty clear — at this time, antidepressants should not be made available over the counter (OTC), without a prescription.

Read the blog entry at Furious Seasons: Prozac Over the Counter? Oh, Hell No!