Laura Fochtmann, MD, Quoted in New York Times Article on ECT Devices

Laura J. Fochtmann, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the ECT service at Stony Brook University Medical Center, was quoted in a New York Times article by Duff Wilson titled “F.D.A. Is Studying the Risk of Electroshock Devices.”

Dr. Fochtmann was quoted in support of the continued use of electroconvulsive therapy. “People use [ECT] because it works,” Dr. Laura Fochtmann said, noting that ECT can be a dramatically effective treatment for extremely life-threatening psychiatric disorders.

The article, published on January 23, 2011, reported on the scheduled deliberations by the Food and Drug Administration to modify the classification of ECT devices. ECT devices were given their current classification in 1976 based on an already long history of use. However, maintaining this current classification would mean that ECT device manufacturers would now need to produce additional evidence of the effectiveness and safety of ECT. This would generate expenses that may put them out of business and eliminate access to ECT for patients.

Most psychiatrists, including those in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University, have argued that ECT is a safe and effective treatment when properly used to treat certain types of depression and other psychiatric illnesses. Dr. James Scully, Jr., the President of the American Psychiatric Association, characterized ECT as a safe and effective treatment in a recent letter to the FDA.

The APA Practice Guideline on Major Depressive Disorders states that: Electroconvulsive therapy should be considered as a potential treatment option for all patients with major depressive disorder who have psychotic features or catatonia and for those with an urgent need for response, such as patients who are suicidal or who are nutritionally compromised as a result of refusing food. Electroconvulsive therapy may also be the treatment modality of choice for patients with major depressive disorder who have a high degree of symptom severity. Other considerations include the presence of co-occurring general medical conditions that preclude the use of antidepressant medications, a prior history of positive response to ECT, and patient preference.

Dr. Fochtmann is the Medical Editor of the Practice Guidelines.