A review of studies of more than 6,000 patients suggests ordinary over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs may aid in the treatment of depression, when taken in combination with antidepressants.
The meta-analysis, recently published in JAMA Psychiatry, is the work of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark.
They discovered analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs used against muscle pain and arthritis may have a beneficial effect on depression symptoms.
The Dutch study team said up to up to 15 percent of the Danish population can expect to suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Americans have between a 10 to 20 percent risk of depression during a lifetime.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression is one of the top five reasons for loss of quality of life and also life years.
In recent years, research has demonstrated a correlation between depression and physical illnesses, such as painful conditions or infections.
In the Danish study, researchers evaluated 14 international studies with a total 6,262 patients who either suffered from depression or had individual symptoms of depression.
“The meta-analysis supports this correlation and also demonstrates that anti-inflammatory medication in combination with antidepressants can have an effect on the treatment of depression.
“When combined they give an important result which, in the long term, strengthens the possibility of being able to provide the individual patient with more personalized treatment options,” said medical student Ole Köhler. Köhler is the first author of the scientific article and a member of the research group from Aarhus University.
The meta-analysis shows strong support for the effect of treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs.
“However, these effects must always be weighed against the possible side effects of the anti-inflammatory drugs. We still need to clarify which patients will benefit from the medicine and the dose-sizes required,” Köhler said.
“The biggest problem with depression is that we do not know the causes that trigger the condition in the individual patient. Some studies suggest that the choice of antidepressant medication can be guided by a blood sample that measures whether there is an inflammatory condition in the body,” he said.
The researchers also report that other studies have shown that the same blood samples could be used as a guideline. Physicians and mental health providers would then know if inflammation is present.
If so, a combination treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs and antidepressants could be an appropriate method of treatment.
“These findings must, however, be verified before they can be implemented in clinical practice,” said Köhler.
He emphasizes that it is not possible to conclude on the basis of the meta-analysis that an inflammatory state can be the sole explanation for a depression.
“The analysis should be seen as a significant milestone in a research context and this could be a landmark for what future research projects and treatment need to focus on,” Köhler said.
Source: Aarhus University