Two-Drug Combination Helps Older Adults with Hard-to-Treat Depression

Two-Drug Combination Helps Older Adults with Hard-to-Treat Depression

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TORONTO (EurekAlert) – More than half of older adults with clinical depression don’t get better when treated with an antidepressant. But results from a multicentre clinical trial, including researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, indicate that adding a second drug – an antipsychotic medication – to the treatment regimen helps many of those patients.

The findings, from a study of 468 people over age 60 diagnosed with depression, are published in The Lancet. This is the first study of its kind ever undertaken in older people with depression.

Previous research in younger patients with depression showed that adding a low dose of the antipsychotic drug aripiprazole (brand name Abilify) helped relieve symptoms of depression when an antidepressant alone wasn’t effective. But the new study is the first to show that the same strategy also works in older adults. The two-drug combination relieved depression in a significant number of patients and also reduced the likelihood that they would have suicidal thoughts.

“This is a rare study because it looks at depression specifically in older adults,” says Dr. Benoit Mulsant, a co-author of the study and Senior Scientist at CAMH. “It’s important to treat older adults effectively, especially given that adults with late-life depression are at an increased risk of developing dementia. Our research demonstrates that older adults respond to treatment for depression.”