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UT Southwestern researcher, colleagues report drug therapy eases chronic depression

DALLAS Oct. 10, 2002 - A team of scientists representing 12 collaborating health-care centers, including UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, have found that antidepressant therapy specifically sertaline hydrochloride, or Zoloft - can enhance the lives of many chronically depressed patients. The team's findings also showed that discontinuing treatment to patients courts relapse and loss of psychosocial skills.

Dr. John Rush, an internationally known depression researcher who is vice chairman of research in psychiatry at UT Southwestern, said the results send a strong message to health maintenance organizations and insurance companies that deny long-term treatment for a disease that affects millions of Americans. The study, reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is the first to systematically look at the long-term impact of depression treatment in the lives of patients and the effects of stopping treatment, said Rush, who was an investigator on the study.

"Chronic depression is an enemy that attacks a person's entire life. The disease incapacitates its victim, laying siege to relationships, educational and vocational success, and even the personal experiencing of joy, pleasure or satisfaction," said Rush.

In all, 635 patients with chronic depression completed 12 weeks of short-term treatment. Those who improved on the Zoloft treatment (209) underwent a four-month continuation trial. Ninety-five percent of those patients responded favorably and were randomized to Zoloft or a placebo for an 18-month maintenance trial. The patients taking Zoloft reported improvement rates of 58 percent to 84 percent on tests qualifying psychosocial dynamics such as functioning, attitudes and quality of life. Only 6 percent of the Zoloft patients relapsed into depression while the placebo group's relapse rate was 23 percent.

Study had either chronic major depression or double depression, a low-level depression disease interrupted by occasio
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Contact: Ann Harrell
Ann.Harrell@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
10-Oct-2002


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