A new study finds antidepressants are effective at treating depression in patients suffering from physical illnesses.
The systematic review was done by Cochrane researchers at King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre in the UK.
The review included 51 studies comparing antidepressants to placebos. Most studies trialled selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants. A total of 3603 patients were involved, suffering from physical illnesses including stroke, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease and cancer. The researchers found that antidepressants were more effective than placebos, although patients receiving antidepressants were more likely to experience adverse effects, including sexual dysfunction and dry mouth.
For every six people receiving treatment, one more could be expected to benefit at between six and eight weeks if they were taking antidepressants.
Lead author Lauren Rayner of King's College London said, "Although trials were small, they do seem to indicate a genuine benefit associated with antidepressants. However, patients with more severe physical illness and more severely depressed patients were not included in the trials. It is possible that those with more severe illness don't respond so well to treatment with antidepressants. This is something that should be addressed in further studies."
Senior investigator Professor Matthew Hotopf, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London added:
"As a clinician I see many patients struggling with the effects of physical disease on their mental health.
Doctors should take into account patients' preferences, symptoms and possible interactions with any other medications they are taking when prescribing antidepressants to physically ill patients".
He concludes: "This is a critical area of research which will help doctors maximise a patient's treatment and recovery from the mental and physical symptoms of illness."