Antidepressants Work On Treating Major Depression, New Study Says

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The largest study on the effectiveness of antidepressants has just been published, showing that they do work on treating major depressive disorders. However, depression remains a mystery.  ( AFP | Getty Images )

Around the world, millions of people suffering from depression take antidepressants to feel better. However, for a long time, there have been many questions about the effectivity of such drugs.

A new study sheds light on the matter. According to the researchers' findings, taking antidepressants to treat depressive disorders in adults is better than placebo treatments.

The study was recently published in The Lancet. It involved over 500 randomized controlled trials with 21 variants of antidepressant medication. Overall, nearly 117,000 participants joined the effort, from ages 18 and above, who suffered from depression. They were treated for at least eight weeks.

Antidepressants Better Than Placebo, New Study Shows

The results? All the antidepressants proved better at treating depression — lessening its symptoms, more specifically — over time compared with placebo. The researchers considered a drug to be effective if it lessened symptoms by 50 percent or more.

"Major depressive disorder is one of the most common, burdensome, and costly psychiatric disorders worldwide in adults," the study says.

According to Andrea Cipriani, from the National Institute for Health Research Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, who led the study, antidepressants are an effective tool for dealing with depression.

"Untreated depression is a huge problem because of the burden to society," she said.

The study took six years to complete and included all the data, published or unpublished, the researchers could find. The most effective drug in the trials was amitriptyline, and the least effective was Prozac, though it was the most tolerable.

Furthermore, three drugs scored the best in terms of efficacy and tolerability: agomelatine, escitalopram, and vortioxetine. These might the first choice by doctors, although two drugs — venlafaxine and amitriptyline — might still be the first choice for severe cases of depression.


Thought there's been a growing number of support for people who admit to be suffering from depression and though there's awareness about mental health problems that are becoming more talked about, depression still remains largely a mystery. Experts say that new treatments are needed — badly. Most of the drugs in the study increase a person's serotonin level, which is thought to lessen symptoms of depression, yet there's still significant uncertainty about this.

While there are people who respond positively to antidepressants, a third of those suffering from depression do not. Plus, when the medicine does work, it might take four to eight weeks before kicking into effect.

"We don't have any very precise treatments for depression at this point in time," said John Geddes, an Oxford University professor teaching epidemiological psychiatry.

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