New Hope For People Suffering From Depression Comes in the Form of a Blood Test! For the first time, Doctors can now determine which medication will be most likely to help patients overcome their depression, according to new research that pushes the medical field beyond what has been a guessing game of prescribing antidepressants until now.
A blood test that measures a particular type of protein level will provide an immediate tool for physicians who used to rely heavily on patient questionnaires to choose a treatment, said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, leader of the research at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care.
“Currently, our selection of depression medications is not any more superior than flipping a coin, and yet that is what we do. Now we have a biological explanation to guide treatment of depression,” said Dr. Trivedi.
The study showed that by measuring a patient’s C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a simple finger-prick blood test could assist doctors when prescribing a medication that is more likely to work. Utilizing this analysis in clinical visits could lead to significant boosts in the success rate of depressed patients who often struggle to find the most efficient treatment.
In a major national study that Dr. Trivedi conducted over a decade ago (STAR*D) gave insight into the prevalence of the problem. His research showed that up to a third of depressed patients don’t show improvements during their first medication and about 40% of the people who started taking antidepressants stopped taking them within three months.
“This outcome happens because they give up,” said Dr. Trivedi, whose previous national study established widely accepted treatment guidelines for depressed patients. “Giving up hope is really a central symptom of the disease. However, if treatment selection is tied to a blood test and improves outcomes, patients are more likely to continue the treatment and achieve the benefit.”
The new study measured remission rates of over 100 depressed patients that were prescribed either escitalopram alone or escitalopram with bupropion. Researchers found there was a strong correlation between CRP levels and which of the drug regimens improved their symptoms:
For the patients whose CRP levels were less than 1 milligram per liter, escitalopram alone was more effective: 57% remission rate compared to less than 30% of the other drug.
For patients with higher CRP levels, escitalopram plus bupropion was more likely to work: 51% remission rate compared to 33% on escitalopram alone. Dr. Trivedi noted that these results could be readily applied to other commonly used antidepressants.
“Both patients and primary-care providers are very desperately looking for markers that would indicate there is some biology involved in this disease. Otherwise, we are talking about deciding treatments from question-and-answer from the patients, and that is not sufficient,” said Dr. Trivedi.
This news is something anyone who suffers from depression can be happy about!