UA Seeks Volunteers for Study of Long-Term Treatment of Depression

George Humphrey
Jan. 9, 2001

Major depression tends to be a lifelong illness, and the majority of people who suffer an episode of major depression will have a recurrence at some time in the future. After three or more episodes of depression, recurrence is virtually inevitable. For such people, national guidelines recommend long-term treatment with antidepressant medications, but most of the science supporting antidepressant treatment has focused on the short-term treatment of acute episodes. Few studies have followed patients over years of treatment.

Now, investigators with the psychiatry department at the University of Arizona are joining colleagues at more than a dozen other academic medical centers to study the treatment of depression over two and one-half years. Patients in an episode of depression, who have had at least two previous bouts of depression, will be assigned at random to take either Effexor-XR, an antidepressant that works on both norepinephrine and serotonin (two brain neurotransmitters), or Prozac, which acts solely on serotonin. Some doctors and scientists think that for many patients, long-term treatment with Prozac (and related drugs) can lead to a loss of effectiveness -- sometimes dubbed "Prozac poop out."

"Depression is a common and costly disorder," says Alan J. Gelenberg, M.D., professor and head of psychiatry at the UA College of Medicine and principal investigator on this study."It wrecks lives, families and careers. It causes loss of life -- not only by suicide, but also by increasing mortality of other medical disorders."

Dr. Gelenberg emphasizes the importance of long-term treatment to prevent future episodes of depression and is optimistic about important data that will emerge from the study. The study is the third in a series of long-term treatment studies by the same group of collaborators, led by Martin B. Keller, M.D., at Brown University. Previous work by the group led to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine on chronic depression.

EDITORS NOTE: Dr. Gelenberg is available for media interviews at (520) 626-6586.




Resources for the media