Some antidepressants are better at relieving depression than others, according to the findings of a new study that examined the benefits associated with various different drug treatment options.
In a report published this week in the medical journal The Lancet, researchers found that most of the antidepressants studied were more effective than placebo, but some specific drugs were more effective than others.
For years the scientific community has argued whether antidepressants are, in fact, effective at relieving depression. Some research has shown even placebo pills have offered some improvement of depression among study participants, leading many doctors to question whether prescribing the pills is the best course.
However, this new study indicates antidepressants are effective, but they are not equal.
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of published and unpublished antidepressant studies. They also analyzed data from websites of regulatory agencies and international registers.
The study focused on 21 antidepressants used to treat adults with major depressive disorder. Overall, more than 28,000 citations were used, including 522 clinical trials, covering more than 116,400 participants.
The drugs that were the most effective at reducing symptoms of depression included: agomelatine, sold under brand names Valdoxan, Melitor, and Thymanax; amitriptyline, sold as Elavil; escitalopram, sold as Lexapro; mirtazapine, sold as Remeron; paroxetine, sold as Paxil; venlafaxine, sold as Effexor XR; and vortioxetine, sold as Trintellix.
Antidepressants that were the least effective included: fluoxetine, sold under the brand name Prozac; fluvoxamine, sold as Favorin; reboxetine, sold as edronax; and trazodone, sold as Desyrel.
A drug was considered effective if it reduced symptoms by 50% or more. Participants noted whether the antidepressant improved their mood and helped them to sleep.
Researchers indicate that many times antidepressants may be effective, but patients may experience side effects or simply not want to take pills to treat their depression, so they stop taking them.
A study published in 2015 suggested Effexor, one of the more effective antidepressants, may be linked to an increased risk of mania and bipolar disorder.
Researchers also analyzed acceptability of the drug. This focused on the proportion of people who dropped out of the study before eight weeks. The only drug which was less acceptable, or not as effective as taking a placebo was clomipramine, sold under the brand name Anafranil.
Researchers said they aimed to update and expand the data which ranked antidepressants.
Major depressive disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders among adults worldwide. While antidepressants are more commonly used than psychological interventions, only about one-third of newly diagnosed people will seek any type of treatment.
Even when treatment is sought, about one-third of people will not respond to treatment. More so, treatment can take 4 to 8 weeks to become effective.
Depression affects approximately 350 million people worldwide and the instance of depression increased 20% from 2005 to 2015.