Antidepressants such as Eli Lilly’s Prozac or GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil can help depressed patients with physical illness,and doctors should consider them more often,researchers said on Wednesday.
While around 10 per cent of patients with physical diseases are thought to suffer from depression,studies suggest doctors are less likely to prescribe antidepressants because they are not sure if the medicines will work well.
A systematic review by British scientists found the drugs were more effective than placebos,or dummy pills,at treating depression in patients with physical illnesses including stroke,HIV/AIDS,Parkinson’s disease and various types of cancer.
The findings are already being used to update European guidelines on treating depression,experts said.
“I see many patients struggling with the effects of physical disease on their mental health,” said Matthew Hotopf of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry,who led the study.
“This is a critical area of research which will help doctors maximize a patient’s treatment and recovery from the mental and physical symptoms of illness.”
The research,a Cochrane Library review which analyzed 51 studies on antidepressants versus placebos,found that for every six people being treated,one more was likely to benefit at 6-8 weeks if they were taking antidepressants.
Most of the studies looked at selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),like Prozac,or at an older class of drugs called tricyclic antidepressants,like Norpramin,made by Sanofi-Aventis. Around 3,600 patients were involved.
“This research is very important for millions of patients and families who are experiencing physical illness,” said Irene Higginson of the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s College London,who also worked on the study.
“Until now many doctors and nurses were worried that these treatments did not work well in people with physical illness. This result shows that they are usually of benefit. Already we are using the results to inform a new European guideline for doctors and nurses on the management of depression.”