Anti-inflammatory drugs could be used to treat depression

By Rebecca Burton • Published: January 10th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 20 Americans over the age of 12 suffer from depression. Like other mental health illnesses, depression can be difficult to treat. Experts say the current “one size fits all” antidepressants may not be effective for about a third of patients being treated for the disorder. However, a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry suggests that anti-inflammatory drugs often used to treat autoimmune diseases may also help treat symptoms of depression in some patients.

In recent years, researchers have been studying whether the immune system and inflammation might be connected to mental health. Inflammation is defined as the immune system’s response to infection or injury. A study conducted in 2014 found that children with higher levels of inflammation had a greater risk of depression later in life.

Because of this link, the researchers wanted to see if the same drugs that reduce inflammation in a range of autoimmune diseases could also treat depression. To conduct the study, the research team analyzed results from 20 clinical trials that included more than 5,000 patients with autoimmune diseases. Results showed that anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as anti-cytokine (si-to-kine) medications, relieved symptoms of depression even if the drugs didn’t work against the disease for which the patient was being treated.

The authors say the findings suggest that anti-cytokine medications could be a plausible treatment for patients who don’t respond to traditional antidepressants. Further clinical trials will test how effective these medications are for patients without an autoimmune disease.