A review from the University of Cambridge concluded that anti-inflammatory drugs which are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis could be used to treat some cases of depression.
A research team from the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge analysed data from 20 clinical trials that involved the use of anti-cytokine drugs for the treatment of autoimmune inflammatory diseases. These anti-cytokine drugs had additional side-effects like anti-depressant activity which was compared with the placebo drug. The placebo samples were based on meta-analysis of seven randomised controlled trials.
Systemic inflammation is the process by which immune cells in the body would rush the blood stream with proteins known as the cytokines. This is how the immune system in our body fights back against an infection. The body carries a minute amount of these proteins known as the 'inflammatory markers' even when the person is healthy which would rise in response to the infection.
The process of inflammation can also mistakenly occur for healthy cells instead of the infected cells which results in autoimmune inflammatory diseases like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and crohn's disease.
The findings of the research study reported that anti-inflammatory drugs were found to improve the symptoms of depression, regardless of its use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The study results was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Dr Golam Khandaker, lead author of the study said, "It's becoming increasingly clear to us that inflammation plays a role in depression, at least for some individuals, and now our review suggests that it may be possible to treat these individuals using some anti-inflammatory drugs. These are not your everyday anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, however, but a particular new class of drugs."
Professor Peter Jones, co-author of the study also added that "It's too early to say whether these anti-cytokine drugs can be used in clinical practice for depression."
"We will need clinical trials to test how effective they are in patients who do not have the chronic conditions for which the drugs have been developed, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease. On top of this, some existing drugs can have potentially serious side effects, which would need to be addressed."
Even though the clinical trials review involved physical illness that trigger inflammation, previous studies were able to find a link between depression and baseline levels of inflammation which is caused by factors like stress or genes.
Dr. Khandaker and team believed that anti-inflammatory drugs were able to treat symptoms of depression even in people who are found to be ineffective with antidepressant drugs.
About one-third of patients who are resistant to antidepressant drugs were showing evidence of inflammation. Therefore use of anti-inflammatory treatment could also be relevant for people who suffer from depression.
The author also said that, "The current approach of a 'one-size-fits-all' medicine to treat depression is problematic. All currently available antidepressants target a particular type of neurotransmitter, but a third of patients do not respond to these drugs. We are now entering the era of 'personalised medicine' where we can tailor treatments to individual patients. This approach is starting to show success in treating cancers, and it's possible that in future we would use anti-inflammatory drugs in psychiatry for certain patients with depression."