Researchers just announced that a new group of anti-inflammatory drugs may be able to help treat depression.
A review was published on October 18 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, explaining that a link between anti-inflammatory drugs and the mental health condition could shed some light on the role inflammation plays in depression.
These drugs are currently being used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis; however, they have also been found to reduce depression symptoms in patients.
The earlier studies discussed in the review had tested the drugs as treatments for certain autoimmune conditions. Researchers were not testing the drugs’ effectiveness at treating depression, yet they collected data on patients’ depression symptoms. Their findings warranted future studies of these drugs as treatment for mental health conditions.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear to us that inflammation plays a role in depression, and now our review suggests that it may be possible to treat these individuals using some anti-inflammatory drugs,” said Dr. Golam Khandaker, the senior author of the review and a psychiatrist at the University of Cambridge.
When the body is fighting an infection, it produces proteins called cytokines. In people with autoimmune diseases, the body produces these proteins mistakenly. In one study, researchers discovered that there could be a link between the levels of cytokines in a person’s blood and their risk for depression. In fact, they found that children with high cytokine levels were more likely to develop depression later in life.
Other studies showed that patients with depression showed significant improvement in their symptoms after taking the anti-inflammatory drugs in comparison to individuals who were given a placebo.
“It’s too early to say whether these anti-cytokine drugs can be used in clinical practice for depression,” said Peter Jones, a co-author of the review. “We will need clinical trials to test how effective they are in patients who do not have the chronic conditions for which the drugs have been developed.”
As many as 350,000 people worldwide are affected by depression, and baby boomers have the highest rate of depression among any generation of American adults. One in seven baby boomers says that they are currently being treated for the mental health condition. Unfortunately, however, over 80% of depressed adults do not seek out professional help.