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Use of NSAIDs may help ease depression

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Depression affects about 296 million people worldwide, or about 4.3 percent of the global population as of 2010 and these patients are typically prescribed with antidepressants for their condition.

New findings, however, suggest that over the counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs that can be easily bought from pharmacies to ease migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pains and similar physical ailments can also help people with depressive symptoms.

Researchers from Denmark have found that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, which are typically prescribed for their pain-killing and antipyretic effects to alleviate painful symptoms of migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain, headache and low back pain may also help ease depressive symptoms along with use of antidepressants.

For the new study published in JAMA Psychiatry on Oct. 15, Ole Köhler, from the Aarhus University Hospital in Risskov, Denmark, and colleagues observed a link between the use of NSAIDs, Celebrex (celecoxib) in particular, with better responses of patients to antidepressant medications sans increased risks for side effects.

For the meta-analysis that sought to find out the effects of anti-inflammatory treatment on depression, Köhler and colleagues examined the results of 14 drug trials that were published before Dec. 31, 2013 and involved 6,262 participants with depressive symptoms or depression.

The researchers found that the patients who took NSAIDs, celecoxib in particular, along with their antidepressant medications experienced improved results in the reduction of their symptoms indicating that NSAIDs can improve the effects of antidepressants.

"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," Köhler said. "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."

Studies have found an association between depression and physical conditions such as headaches, infections and upset stomach and it is likely that NSAIDs help alleviate feelings of depressions by reducing its physical side effects.

Köhler and colleagues acknowledged that more studies are still needed before an exact treatment recommendation can be provided. The researchers said that they still need to determine the patients who can benefit from the medicine and the dosage required.

"Our analysis suggests that anti-inflammatory treatment, in particular celecoxib, decreases depressive symptoms without increased risks of adverse effects," the researchers wrote. "This study supports a proof-of-concept concerning the use of anti-inflammatory treatment in depression. Identification of subgroups that could benefit from such treatment might be warranted."

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