A blood test for a protein called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) can predict whether an anti-depressant drug will work on a depressed patient or not, according to researchers at the Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois, US.
The study involved 35 patients who took the anti-depressant Escitalopram (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs) for major depressive disorder. It was seen that more than 85% of depressed patients who had higher than normal
blood levels of VEGF, experienced partial or complete relief after
taking escitalopram, as compared to fewer than 10% of depressed patients who had low levels of VEGF responded to the drug.
Currently 60% of depression patients do not respond well to the first drug prescribed and it can take a month to achieve a drug response. Such blood tests promise a considerable improvement in time to benefit.
Lead author of the study, Angelos Halarissaid, "This would be the first time we would have a predictor for how well a patient would respond to an anti-depressant. It would greatly benefit our patients if we could predict ahead of time whether a given medication would be effective for a certain patient."
Presently VEGF blood test is very expensive, but the cost is likely to come down significantly if this test becomes widely used.