FDA Mulls Future of Electroshock Therapy

For decades, psychiatrists have used electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat depression that doesn't respond to antidepressant medications. In recent years, the treatment has experienceda bit of a revival, with about 100,000 people in the U.S. receiving it each year.

But the future of ECT in the U.S. is uncertain; an FDA advisory panel is meeting to consider whether the machines used in ECT should be more tightly regulated. This would require manufacturers to provide evidence of safety and effectiveness, which would entail new clinical trials and could temporarily limit the devices' use.

According to USA Today:

"The impending FDA action has reawakened the debate surrounding this controversial treatment for depression and other mental disorders. More than 1,500 organizations and individuals have filed formal comments with the FDA ... [P]atients' rights organizations and advocacy groups such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) ... argue that the treatment and the potential side effects -- such as memory loss and brain damage -- are serious enough to merit a thorough review."

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