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Do antidepressants work? Since the introduction of Prozac in the 1980s, prescriptions for antidepressants have soared 400 percent, with 17 million Americans currently taking some form of the drug. But how much good is the medication itself doing? “The difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people,” says Harvard scientist Irving Kirsch. Will Kirsch’s research, and the work of others, change the $11.3 billion antidepressant industry? Lesley Stahl investigates.

Kirsch’s views are of vital interest to the 17 million Americans who take the drugs, including children as young as six and to the pharmaceutical industry that brings in $11.3 billion a year selling them.

Irving Kirsch is the associate director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School, and he says that his research challenges the very effectiveness of antidepressants.

Irving Kirsch: The difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people.

Lesley Stahl: So you’re saying if they took a sugar pill, they’d have the same effect?

Irving Kirsch: They’d have almost as large an effect and whatever difference there would be would be clinically insignificant.

Stahl: But people are getting better taking antidepressants. I know them.

Kirsch: Oh, yes.

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CBS: 60 Minutes

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