Antidepressants not always effective in people with chronic disease

In the journals

Published: February, 2018

Some antidepressants may not offer much relief for people who battle both depression and a chronic disease, according to research in the Nov. 21, 2017, Journal of the American Medical Association.

Nearly half of Americans live with a chronic condition, according to the CDC, and many also suffer from depression, including more than half of Parkinson's disease patients, 41% of cancer patients, and more than 25% of those with diabetes.

The new study included 201 people (73% of whom were men) who had chronic kidney disease and at least moderate depressive systems. Half of them took the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft) for 12 weeks, while the other half took a placebo. The daily doses ranged from 50 milligrams (mg) daily (the lowest dose) to 200 mg (the maximum dose), based on the person's symptoms and dosage tolerability.

Afterward, the antidepressant group showed no improvement in symptoms compared with the placebo group, based on questionnaires.

Researchers speculated that depression along with a chronic condition may be clinically different from traditional depression, and thus not respond to medications like sertraline. They added that more research is needed to investigate whether depression in the setting of a chronic condition requires specialized treatment, such as other types of antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy or other talk therapies, or some combination.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.