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Volunteers needed for research into treatment resistant depression

Press release issued: 4 February 2009

Can hydrocortisone, a drug which affects the body’s stress system, help people with depression who do not respond to current treatments? Researchers at the University of Bristol are looking for volunteers to help answer this question by taking part in an important new study.

Severe or recurrent depression affects three to five per cent of the population.  Between 10 and 30 per cent of these people do not respond to current treatments and there are few new treatments in development.  People with treatment resistant depression (TRD) are often profoundly disabled and, in the UK, their needs are seldom met as NHS psychiatric services are often overstretched by providing a service to people with psychosis.

The Bristol researchers, led by Dr Andrea Malizia, are looking to recruit patients who have failed to respond to two antidepressant medications.  They want to see if a short course (three days) of hydrocortisone can improve depression in people who have TRD.

Evidence from UK and US studies suggests that a short course of steroids, such as hydrocortisone, may be sufficient to trigger a beneficial response in people who have TRD who are on ‘standard’ antidepressant treatment.  If this were to be confirmed, it would be a significant advance as it may enable a restoration of response to conventional treatments in these individuals.  A further advantage is that such an intervention is inexpensive, relatively simple and could be carried out in outpatient or even appropriate primary care settings.

The researchers are looking for patients with depression who have failed to respond to two antidepressant medications and who would like to be assessed for entry into the study. 

Dr Malizia has a long-standing clinical and research interest in treatment resistant depression and leads a specialist outpatient service at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.  Other members of the research team include psychiatrists and sleep specialists.

The TUDOR (Treating Unresponsive Depression, Overcoming Resistance) study is funded by a local charity, the James Tudor Foundation.

If you are interested in taking part, please contact: Dr A L Malizia, c/o Mrs Ann Rich, Psychopharmacology Unit, Clinic 7, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol BS2 8HW.  You can also phone 0117 928 2778 (and leave a message if the answering machine is on) or e-mail:

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