depression medication, men women depression, gender antidepressants

Men and Women Respond Differently to Antidepressants

September 12, 2008 08:56 AM
by Rachel Balik
A new study links effectiveness of depression medication to gender; results may improve prospects for treatment.

Gender Gap in Antidepressant Response

The STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) study has found that while women may suffer from more severe symptoms of depression, they are 33 percent more likely than men to respond to certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs and achieve a full recovery. “These results are very exciting because they give more confirmation that gender is a factor that should be considered when prescribing treatment for depression,” study author Dr. Susan Kornstein, professor of psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University, told Newsweek.

The overall goal of the study was to assess the ways that different patients respond to treatment. The University of Pittsburgh STAR*D Web site reports that although there are many methods of treating depression, doctors don’t always know what the next step should be when a given method fails. The goal of the study was to determine the types of patients that are likely to respond to a particular treatment, so doctors can make faster and more accurate decisions about how to proceed with treating individual cases of depression.

The study was able to shed light on why certain drugs had failed to help depressed women: they had been tested on men. With the new knowledge about the different ways men and women respond, doctors will be able to select drugs that are more likely to be effective for their patients.

The studies authors also found a similarity between men and women who had gone through menopause, indicating that the key distinguishing factor between treatment responses was the presence of estrogen. It’s possible that the hormone affects the way medication is received by the body, and would also explain certain monthly imbalances in female depression. For example, some women are only suicidal when they are premenstrual.

Related Topic: The difficulty of treating depression

The study found that while often it takes numerous attempts for doctors to find the right treatment for a patient, the patient’s chances of remission decrease with every new method that is applied. Some patients are still trying electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which is a controversial mode of treatment, generally a last effort when medication fails to work. Although the therapy can be effective for altering depressive moods, severe side effects, such as memory loss, have made most doctors question that value of the treatment.

Reference: Understanding mental health


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