Antidepressants may work best for those hardest hit.
THE QUESTION Does the severity of depression affect whether antidepressants would be helpful?
THIS STUDY analyzed data from six studies, involving 718 adults with varying degrees of depression, from mild to very severe, who had been randomly assigned to take an antidepressant or a placebo. Participants in some studies took paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva); in others, they took imipramine (Tofranil). After at least six weeks, the benefit was small among people with mild, moderate or severe depression, and there were essentially no differences, based on standardized scales, between those taking an antidepressant and those taking a placebo. However, the benefit from a drug increased as the severity of depression increased, and a large benefit was attributed to the antidepressant among people with very severe depression.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People with depression, a serious condition that affects an estimated one of every 20 people in the United States. Psychotherapy, or so-called talk therapy, as well as medication -- antidepressants -- are most often used to combat depression, which is considered a highly treatable illness.
CAVEATS The findings might not apply to long-term treatment of chronic depression. Other drugs might have yielded different results.
FIND THIS STUDY Jan. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
-- Linda Searing
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.