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New study will find out best treatment for depression

Press release issued: 22 October 2002

Media release
New study will find out best treatment for depression

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is funding a three year clinical study to look at why some patients respond better to some drug treatments for depression than they do to others.

The trial is being run by Professor Glyn Lewis who works at the Division of Psychiatry at the University of Bristol. The study will recruit 900 patients with severe depression from GP's surgeries in the south west and the results of this trial will enable doctors to prescribe the best antidepressant for an individual patient, based on their personal characteristics.

There is now a wide range of antidepressant drugs used to treat depression, with the two main types being those that influence the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline. This clinical trial will investigate whether there are genetic or clinical predictors to the type of treatment response that people have when using such antidepressants. It will also investigate further preliminary evidence that suggests that people with severe depression respond better with antidepressants that work on the noradrenaline system. Both types of antidepressant are equally effective when considering a large population but some patients have better results with one type of drug as opposed to the other.

Professor Lewis, who is leading the trial said: "Depression is a very debilitating condition that is little understood. Statistics show that more and more people are being diagnosed as being depressed and prescribed antidepressants by their doctor. By improving our understanding of the biology of depression we will greatly increase our ability to provide the best treatment to those in need, thereby speeding their recovery."

Depression affects one in four of the population at some point in their life and it is thought that by the year 2020 it will be the second only to cardiovascular disease as the biggest cause of disability. In 1999 there were in excess of 20 million prescriptions for antidepressant treatments.

It is not known what causes depression although differences in physical, social environments and geographical locations are known to have an effect and some people are genetically predisposed to have depression. Particular disruptions caused by poverty, displacement, discrimination, warfare and other related negative environments are often key contributors to the initial symptoms of depression.

The study will recruit 50 surgeries, 18 in the Avon Primary Care R&D Consortium plus practices elsewhere in Bristol, Somerset, South Gloucestershire and adjoining areas of South Wales.

The study will randomly allocate patients aged between 18-74 who have more severe depressions and whose GP has already agreed that they should take antidepressants. The patients will be divided in two groups and will receive either one of the antidepressant drugs reboxitine or paroxetine. Their depression will be evaluated at six and 12 weeks.

Anyone wishing to take part in the trial should discuss it with their GP who will arrange for a discussion with one of the study co-ordinators. They will give more details about the trial and carry out an assessment of the patient's depression.

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Copyright: 2002 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Tuesday, 22-Oct-2002 17:30:21 BST

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