Evidence Shows Drug-Psychotherapy Combo Effective For Chronic Depression

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new combination of drug treatment and psychotherapy is much more effective than either medication or therapy alone for treating chronic depression, according to preliminary results presented Tuesday, May 18, at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

The combination treatment, involving the drug nefazodone and a form of psychotherapy developed specifically to treat chronic depression, also produced the highest response and remission rates for any reported study of chronic depression.

The findings come from the Serzone Chronic Depression Study, the first major study of medication alone, psychotherapy alone, and the combination of both in patients with chronic depression. Nefazodone, prescribed under the brand name Serzone, is used to treat depression and is effective for reducing relapse. The research is funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, makers of Serzone.

Results from the acute phase - the first 12 weeks - of the 80-week study of 681 patients depressed for at least two years shows that a combination of nefazodone and psychotherapy produces an 85 percent response rate. The drug alone leads to a 55 percent rate of response, similar to a 52 percent response rate for psychotherapy.

Nefazodone, alone or in combination therapy, was also associated with improvement in patients much sooner than psychotherapy. The drug also provided significant early and ongoing improvement in insomnia, which is common in chronically depressed patients.

"The extremely large difference in response rates after 12 weeks is truly astonishing," said lead researcher Martin B. Keller, M.D. "This study should put to rest the widespread belief that chronic depression is resistant to drug treatments and psychotherapy." Keller is professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Human

Contact: Scott Turner
Brown University

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