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Anti-Inflammatory Med May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression

Anti-Inflammatory Med May Ease Hard-to-Treat DepressionA new study suggests a drug used to treat autoimmune disorders and rheumatoid arthritis may help individuals with difficult-to-treat depression.

Researchers say that while inflammation is traditionally associated with the way the body responds to tissue damage, prolonged inflammation can damage many parts of the body, including the brain.

Prior studies have suggested that depressed people with evidence of high inflammation are less likely to respond to traditional treatments for the disorder, including anti-depressant medications and psychotherapy.

Researchers at Emory University designed their study to see whether blocking inflammation would be a useful treatment for either a wide range of people with difficult-to-treat depression or only those with high levels of inflammation.

The study investigated the use of infliximab, a new biologic drug used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Each participant was assigned either to infliximab or to a non-active placebo treatment.

A biologic drug copies the effects of substances naturally made by the body’s immune system. In this case, the drug was an antibody that blocks tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a key molecule in inflammation that has been shown to be elevated in some depressed individuals.

Study participants all had major depression and were moderately resistant to conventional antidepressant treatment.

When investigators looked at the results for the group as a whole, no significant differences were found in the improvement of depression symptoms between the drug and placebo groups.

However, when the subjects with high inflammation were examined separately, they exhibited a much better response to infliximab than to placebo.

Inflammation in this study was measured using a simple blood test that is readily available in most clinics and hospitals and measures C-reactive protein or CRP. The higher the CRP, the higher the inflammation, and the higher the likelihood of responding to the drug.

“The prediction of an antidepressant response using a simple blood test is one of the holy grails in psychiatry,” said Andrew H. Miller, M.D., senior author for the study.

“This is especially important because the blood test not only measured what we think is at the root cause of depression in these patients, but also is the target of the drug.”

“This is the first successful application of a biologic therapy to depression,” added Charles L. Raison, M.D., first author of the study.

According to experts, the study proves that new therapeutic approaches targeting the immune system can aid in the treatment of psychiatric diseases.

The study has been published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Sources: Emory University

Pill photo by shutterstock.

Anti-Inflammatory Med May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Anti-Inflammatory Med May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 4 Sep 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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