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News Briefs

British Warn on Anti-Depressants For Adults


British medical regulators urged physicians on Monday to show greater caution in prescribing anti-depressants to adults and said they should be clearly labeled with warnings about their use. Regulators did not dispute the benefits of the drugs for most adults, but the newest warning seemed to reflect a growing caution among British medical specialists about the use of anti-depressants, particularly in cases of mild depression, and an equal sense that physicians should also consider counseling and other forms of psychiatric therapy.

The warnings did not go as far as British rules a year ago that counseled against the use of six anti-depressants -- not including Prozac, made by Eli Lilly & Co. -- to treat depression in patients younger than 18. Those rules led to similar recommendations by U.S. health authorities last September.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority -- the British equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- said that while selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, known as SSRIs, were “effective medicines in the treatment of depression and anxiety conditions” in adults, “clear advice” should be given “in all SSRI product information” about withdrawal reactions, dose changes and suicidal behavior.

Alison Langley, a spokeswoman for the authority, said this guidance related to the level of information physicians should give to patients.

U.S. Students Lag in Math Skills


High school students in Hong Kong, Finland and South Korea do best in mathematics among those in 40 surveyed countries while students in the United States finished in the bottom half, according to a new, international comparison of mathematical skills shown by 15-year-olds.

The United States was also cited as having the poorest outcomes per dollar spent on education. It ranked 28th of 40 countries on math and 18th on reading.

The study, released Monday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group based in Paris representing 30 nations, used tests given to students in 2003 and was intended to assess relative performance and to try to determine reasons for it.

“The gap between the best and worst performing countries has widened,” said Andreas Schleicher, the official who directed the study and wrote the report.

The study compared student performance in 29 of the 30 countries in the organization, which includes all major industrialized nations, and in 11 other countries that chose to participate. Due to insufficient participation in the study, figures for Britain were not reported.