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Common treatment for depression is safe and effective for Alzheimer's patients

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have shown that a drug, Zoloft, commonly used for depression, also improves quality of life and alleviates disruption in daily activities for the one-quarter of Alzheimer's patients who also suffer from major depression. However, the drug did not improve patients' cognitive abilities, such as thinking, remembering and learning, which are often impaired in Alzheimer's disease patients.

"Depression in Alzheimer's patients, and even Alzheimer's disease itself, often goes undiagnosed, in part because doctors feel they have little to offer in the form of treatment. This study shows that a simple treatment for depression improves the quality of life and seems to slow the functional decline of Alzheimer's disease," says Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the report appearing in the July 2003 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The drug, called sertraline hydrochloride or Zoloft, is a common treatment for psychiatric diseases such as major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder.

Major depression affects 25 percent of patients with Alzheimer's disease, and when combined with the cognitive impairment of Alzheimer's, is extremely disabling and can lead to death or suicide, says Lyketsos.

"This simple and safe treatment for depression has tremendous potential for improving the quality of life for both Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers," said Lyketsos.

The study included adult participants with both Alzheimer's disease and major depression. All patients and their caregivers were educated about the illnesses and received encouragement and emotional support throughout the study. All patients were rated on a standardized depression scale and given a single placebo pill daily for one week in order to identify those with transient or temporary depression. Those patients with a drop of 30 per
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Contact: Trent Stockton
tstockt1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
23-Jul-2003


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