Anti-depressants are widely used to help relieve suffering. But after reviewing previous studies, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may have hit on something that could change the way anti-depressants are prescribed.
The researchers looked at data from earlier studies on two antidepressants. The studies included patients with severe, moderate and mild forms of depression. Some were given antidepressants. Others received a placebo. Jay Fournier, the study's lead author, said, "What we found was that patients who are on the lower end of the severity, the medications weren't doing much more than the placebo was. For patients at the higher end of the severity, the medications had a very potent effect."
Doctors have been sharply divided on how to treat patients with less serious symptoms of depression. The study does not make treatment recommendations, but it has implications for treatment.
Psychiatrist Stuart Sotsky conducted one of the studies included in the review. "I hope that what a study like this will do would be to help alert clinicians, residents in training, and medical students that severity is an important factor to consider in planning treatment," he said.
Dr. Sotsky says some moderately depressed patients could still benefit from antidepressants, but his study showed that many others could do just as well with exercise, talk therapy, support groups or self help. "While they may not respond to antidepressants, the good news is that there are other, effective treatments that can be employed to help," he said.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.