Common antidepressant ‘works for anxiety, but not depression’

Henrietta Strickland
September 20, 2019

Sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is one of the most common drugs used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Dr. Gemma Lewis included: "Antidepressants are one of the most generally recommended drugs in the United Kingdom and prescription rates have risen drastically throughout the last decade in high-income nations".

Prescriptions for antidepressants have risen substantially in wealthy countries over the past two decades (the rate has doubled in the last ten years), and this has led to concerns that they are being over-prescribed. The results showed depressive symptoms were 5% lower after six weeks in the sertraline group, which was "no convincing evidence" of an effect. Be that as it may, there was feeble evidence that sertraline reduced depression side effects by 12 weeks.

That is prone to clarify why sufferers taking sertraline had been twice as prone to say they felt typically higher in comparison with the placebo group, even as soon as questioned on particular signs of despair the profit was far weaker.

The study, published in the journal the Lancet Psychiatry and led by University College London (UCL) researchers, was conducted in GP surgeries across England.

Half of the patients were given sertraline for 12 weeks, while the other half were arbitrarily assigned to the control group and given placebo pills for 12 weeks.

This trial, which takes a "scattergun approach", suggests a broader and more vaguely defined primary care population could benefit from antidepressants, which is important considering primary care is the largest treatment setting for depression and anxiety, wrote Brenda Penninx, PhD, of Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, in an accompanying editorial.

The senior author of the study, Professor Glyn Lewis, head of division at UCL Psychiatry, stated: "Our study supports the current use of antidepressants and finds that sertraline is viable for the individuals likely to get antidepressants in primary care". In addition, Lewis said the findings indicate reducing mental health symptoms, whether related to depression or anxiety, can help people feel better.

Antidepressants such as sertraline work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Patients could increase doses to three times daily after six weeks if they had consulted with their clinicians, though more than 90% of patients remained on 100 mg doses, Lewis said.

Dr Sameer Jauhar, honorary consultant psychiatrist from King's College London, said the trial's positive findings probably reflected why Global Positioning System prescribe antidepressants. But he said they were not relevant to people with major depression.

Most people with depressive symptoms also have anxiety symptoms, and it would be unusual for someone to have depressive symptoms but no anxiety symptoms.

Prof Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the findings would be "reassuring for both doctors and patients".

'I would be very cautious about proposing greater use of drugs such as sertraline, particularly given the findings in the recent PHE report on long-term use of antidepressants.'

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of Global Positioning System, said antidepressants worked best "when taken for significant periods of time, which is one reason why doctors will often review patients after several weeks of use and then prescribe a fairly long course of the drugs, if they appear to be beneficial".

'We think by acting early on anxiety, the antidepressant is helping the patient feel better and this is happening even if the impact on the depressive symptoms is small and happening later'.

The researchers said people with depression most often have symptoms of anxiety, which the drug offered clear benefits for.

The trial is the largest placebo-controlled trial of an antidepressant which has not been funded by the pharmaceutical industry, the UCL researchers said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article