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Starting this week, the FDA will try to make sense of it all: the studies, published and unpublished; expert testimony from both sides; and the personal stories of ordinary people like Mark Taylor, 19, wounded in the Columbine school shootings by Eric Harris, 18, who was taking the antidepressant Luvox at the time.
The agency could come to a decision by next summer, but it might not be as well informed as some would like. The truth, suspect many psychiatrists, is complicated: SSRIs help some people and hurt others. Says Teicher: "To figure out what impact [SSRIs] have on a side effect like suicidal thoughts that might only affect a couple of percent--or even less than 1%--of people in a study, you need a much, much larger study." And, says Teicher, nobody is doing those studies yet. Besides, argues Koplewicz, SSRIs are most often prescribed for kids by pediatricians or family practitioners, not by experts in child psychiatry. "We need to train these physicians properly," he says, "not ban drugs that are clearly effective." --Reported by Melissa August/Washington, Helen Gibson/London, Hilary Hylton/Austin and Sora Song/New York