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Depression, Dementia Drugs Not Effective? Potentially Harmful?

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Antidepressants that are typically handed out to treat depression and dementia in patients may not provide much relief, a new study indicates.

The British study also notes that on top of not alleviating the original problems, these antidepressants may also raise the risk of particularly serious side-effects.

"The two classes of antidepressants most likely to be prescribed for depression in Alzheimer's disease are no more effective than placebo," the study authors said.
The drugs discussed are Zoloft (sertraline) and Remeron (mirtazapine).

"In our study, there were more adverse reactions in individuals treated with antidepressants than there were with placebo," the research team added. "Clinicians and investigators need to reframe the way they think about the treatment of people with Alzheimer's disease who are depressed, and reconsider routine prescription of antidepressants."

This study was conducted by Sube Banerjee of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London in England.

In order to come to their conclusions, the researchers primarily zeroed in on 325 patients being treated at any of nine health centers across England for probable Alzheimer’s disease, who were also prone to bouts with depression. The patients were then divided up into three 13-week treatment groups. One of the groups got 150 milligrams of sertraline per day, the next got 45 milligrams of mirtazpaine and the third got placebos.

Three months in, the researchers found no notable difference between the incidences of depression among any of the three groups. However, while about a quarter of the people given placebos experienced adverse reactions as a result of treatment, that figure rose to between 41 percent and 43 percent in the groups given an antidepressant.

This report was published online July 19 in The Lancet.

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