Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Study finds medication of little help to patients with mild, moderate depression

Only people with severe depression benefit from antidepressants, says research published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. Others do better with nonmedical approaches.

Antidepressant medications probably provide little or no benefit to people with mild or moderate depression, a new study has found. Rather, the mere act of seeing a doctor, discussing symptoms and learning about depression probably triggers the improvements many patients experience while on medication.

Only people with very severe depression receive additional benefits from drugs, said the senior author of the study, Robert J. DeRubeis, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor. The research was released online Tuesday and will be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Hundreds of studies have attested to the benefits of antidepressants over placebos, DeRubeis said. But many studies involve only participants with severe depression. Confusion arises, he said, "because there is a tendency to generalize the findings to mean that all depressed people benefit from medications."

The current analysis attempted to quantify how much of antidepressants' benefit is attributable to chemical effects on the brain and how much can be explained by other factors, such as visiting a doctor, taking action to feel better or merely the passage of time.


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