Promising Treatment News: Psychotherapy and Antidepressant Therapy
Here’s something I don’t get to say very often – a new mental health study came out that I’m very excited about. A study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that people whose depression is not treated successfully with an initial course of antidepressant therapy can often find success by trying a second course with a different antidepressant or an additional antidepressant.
During the study, which is part of a broad, six-year study of mental illness, 2,876 patients were put on the antidepressant Celexa for 14 weeks. At the end of that period, one third of the patients were symptom-free. Those who weren’t symptom-free were given the option to continue treatment with another antidepressant or augment the Celexa with another drug. After another 14 weeks, about 25 percent of the patients who chose to switch antidepressants achieved remission. About 30% of the patients who chose to have another drug added to the Celexa achieved remission.
In total, there will be four levels of treatment, as patients who did not improve in the first two levels of treatment will be given the opportunity to continue with a third and fourth level. The results of those trials should be published by the end of the year.
So persistence, admittedly a very difficult thing to find when you’re depressed, does really pay off. In addition, it seems that the usual initial course of six to eight weeks of a new antidepressant might not be long enough, so keep that in mind if you are starting a new antidepressant and are getting discouraged after a few weeks.
One thing that’s really exciting about the results of the study is that the goal was remission (being symptom-free) instead of simply an improvement in the patients’ mood. In addition, what is interesting about the overall six-year study is that they are endeavoring to duplicate “real-world” settings in their clinical trials, as opposed to the often artificial conditions of many studies.
Further research is being done in this study. Patients who went on to psychotherapy after failing with the antidepressants are being tracked, and data is being analyzed both from patients who dropped out and those who continued on the first drug, Celexa.
Results of the schizophrenia part of the six-year study have been published, and reports on bipolar disorder and adolescent depression are in the works.