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New Treatment Approach May Benefit Teenagers with Depression

Teenagers suffering from treatment-resistant depression may achieve positive results with a switch in medications or a combination of a medication change and cognitive behavior therapy.

Teenagers with treatment-resistant depression, many of who have been depressed for two or more years, benefit significantly from a switch in medications or a combination of a medication switch and cognitive behavioral therapy, according to findings from a multi-center study led by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

In a 2008 study of 334 participants ranging from 12 to 18 years old, principal investigator Graham Emslie, MD, and colleagues published a report finding that nearly 55% of patients improved when they were switched to a different anti-depressant and participated in cognitive behavior therapy. The earlier study also revealed that about 41% of participants who had only switched to a different anti-depressant improved after a three-month period. Patients who responded positively to the new treatment regimen during this first three-month period were also more likely to achieve remission.

The current research examines the six-month data from that study, demonstrating that nearly 39% of participants who completed six months of treatment were no longer suffering from symptoms of depression. Emslie and colleagues note that these patients were more likely to have had lower levels of depression, hopelessness, and anxiety at the beginning of the study. Results were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, along with comments on the results of the earlier study, one of which notes that 19.6% of patients who had responded to the new treatment regimen by week 12 suffered a relapse in depression by week 24.

According to Emslie, current guidelines suggest that patients stay on one medication for at least 2-3 months before trying a new one; however, these new results may impact the guidelines, he continued.

“In light of our new findings, those guidelines may need to be revisited because these latest results suggest more aggressive treatment early on may improve outcomes,” Emslie said.