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Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is an important clinical challenge and may present differently between age groups.
A total of 893 depressed patients recruited within the framework of the European research consortium “Group for the Studies of Resistant Depression” were assessed by generalized linear models regarding age effects (both as numerical and factorial predictors) on treatment outcome, number of lifetime depressive episodes, hospitalization time, and duration of the current episode. Effects of age as numerical predictor on the severity of common depressive symptoms, measured with Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) for two-time points, were assessed by linear mixed models, respectively, for patients showing TRD and treatment response. A corrected p threshold of 0.001 was applied.
Overall symptom load reflected by MADRS (p < 0.0001) and lifetime hospitalization time (p < 0.0001) increased with age in TRD patients but not treatment responders. In TRD, higher age was predicting symptom severity of inner tension, reduced appetite, concentrations difficulties, and lassitude (all p ≤ 0.001). Regarding clinical significance, older TRD patients were more likely to report severe symptoms (item score > 4) for these items both before and after treatment (all p ≤ 0.001).
In this naturalistic sample of severely ill depressed patients, antidepressant treatment protocols were equally effective in addressing TRD in old age. However, specific symptoms such as sadness, appetite, and concentration showed an age-dependent presentation, impacting residual symptoms in severely affected TRD patients and calling for a precision approach by a better integration of age profiles in treatment recommendations.
The aim of the current study was to explore the effect of gender, age at onset, and duration on the long-term course of schizophrenia.
Twenty-nine centers from 25 countries representing all continents participated in the study that included 2358 patients aged 37.21 ± 11.87 years with a DSM-IV or DSM-5 diagnosis of schizophrenia; the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale as well as relevant clinicodemographic data were gathered. Analysis of variance and analysis of covariance were used, and the methodology corrected for the presence of potentially confounding effects.
There was a 3-year later age at onset for females (P < .001) and lower rates of negative symptoms (P < .01) and higher depression/anxiety measures (P < .05) at some stages. The age at onset manifested a distribution with a single peak for both genders with a tendency of patients with younger onset having slower advancement through illness stages (P = .001). No significant effects were found concerning duration of illness.
Our results confirmed a later onset and a possibly more benign course and outcome in females. Age at onset manifested a single peak in both genders, and surprisingly, earlier onset was related to a slower progression of the illness. No effect of duration has been detected. These results are partially in accord with the literature, but they also differ as a consequence of the different starting point of our methodology (a novel staging model), which in our opinion precluded the impact of confounding effects. Future research should focus on the therapeutic policy and implications of these results in more representative samples.
This is a report of a joint World Psychiatric Association/International College of Neuropsychopharmacology (WPA/CINP) workgroup concerning the risk/benefit ratio of antipsychotics in the treatment of schizophrenia. It utilized a selective but, within topic, comprehensive review of the literature, taking into consideration all the recently discussed arguments on the matter and avoiding taking sides when the results in the literature were equivocal. The workgroup’s conclusions suggested that antipsychotics are efficacious both during the acute and the maintenance phase, and that the current data do not support the existence of a supersensitivity rebound psychosis. Long-term treated patients have better overall outcome and lower mortality than those not taking antipsychotics. Longer duration of untreated psychosis and relapses are modestly related to worse outcome. Loss of brain volume is evident already at first episode and concerns loss of neuropil volume rather than cell loss. Progression of volume loss probably happens in a subgroup of patients with worse prognosis. In humans, antipsychotic treatment neither causes nor worsens volume loss, while there are some data in favor for a protective effect. Schizophrenia manifests 2 to 3 times higher mortality vs the general population, and treatment with antipsychotics includes a number of dangers, including tardive dyskinesia and metabolic syndrome; however, antipsychotic treatment is related to lower mortality, including cardiovascular mortality. In conclusion, the literature strongly supports the use of antipsychotics both during the acute and the maintenance phase without suggesting that it is wise to discontinue antipsychotics after a certain period of time. Antipsychotic treatment improves long-term outcomes and lowers overall and specific-cause mortality.
There is a high prevalence of panic disorder (PD) in the community. The National Comorbidity Survey, a US study of over 8000 adults in the general population, found a lifetime prevalence rate of 3.5%. This is a higher prevalence than that reported in earlier epidemiological studies, which documented lifetime prevalence rates of between 1.2 and 2.4%. Panic disorder is typically a disorder of young adults, with an impact on quality of life, in terms of social, personal, and economic consequences, at least comparable to that of major depression. Benzodiazepines, as well as selective serotonine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been studied thoroughly in acute and long-term PD. However, there is a lack of data to answer the question if there is an enhanced efficacy with the combination of psychological treatments as well as to guide the clinicians what to do after non-response.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a chronic illness with an estimated one year prevalence of approximately 3%, and a lifetime prevalence of approximately 6%. GAD (without depression comorbidity) is associated with significant impairment in quality of life and functioning which has been found to be comparable to major depressive disorder, and chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis. At least 5 classes of drugs are available for the pharmacologic management of GAD (Bandelow et al., 2008), each acting via different mechanisms: (1) benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam, etc) which augment inhibitory GABAergic activity; (2) monoaminergic reuptake inhibitors, consisting of SSRI drugs with serotonin selectivity (paroxetine, escitalopram, sertraline), SNRI drugs with dual serotonin/ norepinephrine activity (venlafaxine-XR, duloxetine), as well as some first generation tricyclics (imipramine); (3) azapirones (buspirone) which modulate monoaminergic transmission; and (4) pregabalin, which acts presynaptically to inhibit excitatory neurotransmission. Two other classes of medication (antihistamines such as hydroxyzine; antipsychotics such as quetiapine) and recently a herbal remedy, silexan, have also demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of GAD. Cross-study comparisons suggest that each class of drug has a different benefit-risk profile. However, relatively few double-blind, placebo-controlled head-to-head trials have been published which provide direct comparisons of the efficacy and safety profiles of drugs in each class.
Based on the sound knowledge of clinical psychiatry neuroscientists embark since over 20 years to discover the biological bases of mental disorders. Whereas the “window to the brain” was firstly dominated by neuroendocrine and biochemical models, we now have the possibility to use sophisticated brain imaging techniques which span from electrophysiology to techniques derived from nuclear medicine. Furthermore, the combination of brain imaging techniques with genetic variables promises to have a close insight into brain-environment interactions. For treatment of psychiatric diseases, multidimensional criteria for selection of a psychotropic medication is necessary to not only judge the clinical phenotype but also the functional phenotype and finally the genotype. Whereas the clinical phenotype is characterized by psychiatric syndromes including psychiatric and somatic comorbidity, the functional phenotype can be uncovered with neuroendocrine measurements, sleep physiology, imaging techniques as well as proteomics. Finally, the genotype can be characterized by single nucleotid polymorphisms (SNP), coupling as well as the determination of candidate genes. Imaging genetics is a new way to achieve insight in the genetic variables of changes on a cellular level which thereafter influence information processing and finally are represented in complex functional interaction of human behavior. Based on this knowledge it is evident that psychiatrists not only should be determined to the clinical symptomatology of their patients but also on the underlying biological processes which can in turn be influenced to various degress with pharmacological as well as non-pharmacological treatment modalities, since the brain has a specified way to get better.
This paper presents data obtained in a one-day census investigation in five European countries (Austria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia). The census forms were filled in for 4191 psychiatric inpatients. Concerning legal status, 11.2% were hospitalised against their will (committed) and 21.4% were treated in a ward with locked doors. There was only a small correlation between commitment and treatment in a locked ward. More frequent than treatment of committed patients in locked wards was treatment of committed patients in open wards (Austria, Hungary) and treatment of voluntary patients in closed wards (Slovakia, Slovenia). Concerning employment, 27.7% of patients aged 18–60 held a job before admission. The vast majority of patients (84.8%) had a length of stay of less than 3 months. A comparison of these data with the results of a study performed in 1996 and using the same method shows a decrease of rates of long-stay patients. In 1996 the rates of employment were significantly higher in Romania (39.3%) and Slovakia (42.5%) compared to Austria (30.7%). These differences disappeared in 1999 due to decreasing rates of employment in Romania and Slovakia. The numbers of mental health personnel varies between types of institution (university or non-university) and countries, being highest in Austria and lowest in Romania. A considerable increase in the numbers of staff was found in Slovakia.
The ZEISIG study (Ziprasidone Experience in Schizophrenia in Germany/Austria) investigated the effectiveness of ziprasidone as measured by discontinuation rates and mean changes of the BPRS total. Secondary objectives included quality of life, subjective well-being, tolerability, and safety.
Subjects and methods
Two hundred and seventy-six subjects with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder were treated within an open-label, 12-week, prospective, flexible-dose observational trial of ziprasidone (40–160 mg/day). Baseline and outcome assessments mainly included Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), Clinical Global Impressions Scale (CGI), Short-Form 12 (SF-12), and Subjective Well-being under Neuroleptic treatment (SWN-K).
Study discontinuation due to any cause was evident in 58% of subjects, most of them within the first 4 weeks after study initiation. In study completers, ziprasidone was associated with improvements in BPRS total (44.8 to 33.6; p < 0.001), CGI, SF-12, and SWN-K total scores (80.5 to 89.5). Ziprasidone was related to reduction of weight, fasting glucose, and serum lipids. No cardiovascular adverse event or significant increase of the QTc interval was observed.
Discussion and conclusion
Approximately 60% of subjects discontinued ziprasidone prematurely, probably related to an initial and overall underdose. The present study confirmed previous tolerability and safety data of ziprasidone as well as results of its effectiveness. Independent from reason to switch, previous antipsychotic class, and severity of illness at baseline, the recommended starting dose of 80 mg/day as well as the maximum treatment dose of 160 mg/day may not be sufficient for a selected subgroup of patients.
The aim of the current study was to explore the changing interrelationships among clinical variables through the stages of schizophrenia in order to assemble a comprehensive and meaningful disease model.
Twenty-nine centers from 25 countries participated and included 2358 patients aged 37.21 ± 11.87 years with schizophrenia. Multiple linear regression analysis and visual inspection of plots were performed.
The results suggest that with progression stages, there are changing correlations among Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale factors at each stage and each factor correlates with all the others in that particular stage, in which this factor is dominant. This internal structure further supports the validity of an already proposed four stages model, with positive symptoms dominating the first stage, excitement/hostility the second, depression the third, and neurocognitive decline the last stage.
The current study investigated the mental organization and functioning in patients with schizophrenia in relation to different stages of illness progression. It revealed two distinct “cores” of schizophrenia, the “Positive” and the “Negative,” while neurocognitive decline escalates during the later stages. Future research should focus on the therapeutic implications of such a model. Stopping the progress of the illness could demand to stop the succession of stages. This could be achieved not only by both halting the triggering effect of positive and negative symptoms, but also by stopping the sensitization effect on the neural pathways responsible for the development of hostility, excitement, anxiety, and depression as well as the deleterious effect on neural networks responsible for neurocognition.
Most people with bipolar disorder spend a significant percentage of their lifetime experiencing either subsyndromal depressive symptoms or major depressive episodes, which contribute greatly to the high levels of disability and mortality associated with the disorder. Despite the importance of bipolar depression, there are only a small number of recognised treatment options available. Consecutive treatment failures can quickly exhaust these options leading to treatment-resistant bipolar depression (TRBD). Remarkably few studies have evaluated TRBD and those available lack a comprehensive definition of multi-therapy-resistant bipolar depression (MTRBD).
To reach consensus regarding threshold definitions criteria for TRBD and MTRBD.
Based on the evidence of standard treatments available in the latest bipolar disorder treatment guidelines, TRBD and MTRBD criteria were agreed by a representative panel of bipolar disorder experts using a modified Delphi method.
TRBD criteria in bipolar depression was defined as failure to reach sustained symptomatic remission for 8 consecutive weeks after two different treatment trials, at adequate therapeutic doses, with at least two recommended monotherapy treatments or at least one monotherapy treatment and another combination treatment. MTRBD included the same initial definition as TRBD, with the addition of failure of at least one trial with an antidepressant, a psychological treatment and a course of electroconvulsive therapy.
The proposed TRBD and MTRBD criteria may provide an important signpost to help clinicians, researchers and stakeholders in judging how and when to consider new non-standard treatments. However, some challenging diagnostic and therapeutic issues were identified in the consensus process that need further evaluation and research.
Declaration of interest
In the past 3 years, M.B. has received grant/research support from the NIH, Cooperative Research Centre, Simons Autism Foundation, Cancer Council of Victoria, Stanley Medical Research Foundation, MBF, NHMRC, Beyond Blue, Rotary Health, Geelong Medical Research Foundation, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Glaxo SmithKline, Meat and Livestock Board, Organon, Novartis, Mayne Pharma, Servier, Woolworths, Avant and the Harry Windsor Foundation, has been a speaker for Astra Zeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Glaxo SmithKline, Janssen Cilag, Lundbeck, Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi Synthelabo, Servier, Solvay and Wyeth and served as a consultant to Allergan, Astra Zeneca, Bioadvantex, Bionomics, Collaborative Medicinal Development, Eli Lilly, Grunbiotics, Glaxo SmithKline, Janssen Cilag, LivaNova, Lundbeck, Merck, Mylan, Otsuka, Pfizer and Servier. A.J.C. has in the past 3 years received honoraria for speaking from Astra Zeneca and Lundbeck, honoraria for consulting from Allergan, Janssen, Lundbeck and LivaNova and research grant support from Lundbeck. G.M.G. holds shares in P1Vital and has served as consultant, advisor or CME speaker for Allergan, Angelini, Compass pathways, MSD, Lundbeck, Otsuka, Takeda, Medscape, Minervra, P1Vital, Pfizer, Servier, Shire and Sun Pharma. J.G. has received research funding from National Institute for Health Research, Medical Research Council, Stanley Medical Research Institute and Wellcome. H.G. received grants/research support, consulting fees or honoraria from Gedeon Richter, Genericon, Janssen Cilag, Lundbeck, Otsuka, Pfizer and Servier. R.H.M.-W. has received support for research, expenses to attend conferences and fees for lecturing and consultancy work (including attending advisory boards) from various pharmaceutical companies including Astra Zeneca, Cyberonics, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Liva Nova, Lundbeck, MyTomorrows, Otsuka, Pfizer, Roche, Servier, SPIMACO and Sunovion. R.M. has received research support from Big White Wall, Electromedical Products, Johnson and Johnson, Magstim and P1Vital. S.N. received honoraria from Lundbeck, Jensen and Otsuka. J.C.S. has received funds for research from Alkermes, Pfizer, Allergan, J&J, BMS and been a speaker or consultant for Astellas, Abbott, Sunovion, Sanofi. S.W has, within the past 3 years, attended advisory boards for Sunovion and LivaNova and has undertaken paid lectures for Lundbeck. D.J.S. has received honoraria from Lundbeck. T.S. has reported grants from Pathway Genomics, Stanley Medical Research Institute and Palo Alto Health Sciences; consulting fees from Sunovion Pharamaceuticals Inc.; honoraria from Medscape Education, Global Medical Education and CMEology; and royalties from Jones and Bartlett, UpToDate and Hogrefe Publishing. S.P. has served as a consultant or speaker for Janssen, and Sunovion. P.T. has received consultancy fees as an advisory board member from the following companies: Galen Limited, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Europe Ltd, myTomorrows and LivaNova. E.V. received grants/ research support, consulting fees or honoraria from Abbott, AB-Biotics, Allergan, Angelini, Dainippon Sumitomo, Ferrer, Gedeon Richter, Janssen, Lundbeck, Otsuka and Sunovion. L.N.Y. has received grants/research support, consulting fees or honoraria from Allergan, Alkermes, Dainippon Sumitomo, Janssen, Lundbeck, Otsuka, Sanofi, Servier, Sunovion, Teva and Valeant. A.H.Y. has undertaken paid lectures and advisory boards for all major pharmaceutical companies with drugs used in affective and related disorders and LivaNova. He has also previously received funding for investigator-initiated studies from AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Lundbeck and Wyeth. P.R.A.S. has received research funding support from Corcept Therapeutics Inc. Corcept Therapeutics Inc fully funded attendance at their internal conference in California USA and all related expenses. He has received grant funding from the Medical Research Council UK for a collaborative study with Janssen Research and Development LLC. Janssen Research and Development LLC are providing non-financial contributions to support this study. P.R.A.S. has received a presentation fee from Indivior and an advisory board fee from LivaNova.
Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is the most problematic outcome of depression in terms of functional impairment, suicidal thoughts and decline in physical health.
To investigate the genetic predictors of TRD using a genome-wide approach to contribute to the development of precision medicine.
A sample recruited by the European Group for the Study of Resistant Depression (GSRD) including 1148 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) was characterised for the occurrence of TRD (lack of response to at least two adequate antidepressant treatments) and genotyped using the Infinium PsychArray. Three clinically relevant patient groups were considered: TRD, responders and non-responders to the first antidepressant trial, thus outcomes were based on comparisons of these groups. Genetic analyses were performed at the variant, gene and gene-set (i.e. functionally related genes) level. Additive regression models of the outcomes and relevant covariates were used in the GSRD participants and in a fixed-effect meta-analysis performed between GSRD, STAR*D (n = 1316) and GENDEP (n = 761) participants.
No individual polymorphism or gene was associated with TRD, although some suggestive signals showed enrichment in cytoskeleton regulation, transcription modulation and calcium signalling. Two gene sets (GO:0043949 and GO:0000183) were associated with TRD versus response and TRD versus response and non-response to the first treatment in the GSRD participants and in the meta-analysis, respectively (corrected P = 0.030 and P = 0.027).
The identified gene sets are involved in cyclic adenosine monophosphate mediated signal and chromatin silencing, two processes previously implicated in antidepressant action. They represent possible biomarkers to implement personalised antidepressant treatments and targets for new antidepressants.
Declaration of interest
D.S. has received grant/research support from GlaxoSmithKline and Lundbeck; has served as a consultant or on advisory boards for AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen and Lundbeck. S.M. has been a consultant or served on advisory boards for: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Forest, Johnson & Johnson, Leo, Lundbeck, Medelink, Neurim, Pierre Fabre, Richter. S.K. has received grant/research support from Eli Lilly, Lundbeck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Organon, Sepracor and Servier; has served as a consultant or on advisory boards for AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Lundbeck, Pfizer, Organon, Schwabe, Sepracor, Servier, Janssen and Novartis; and has served on speakers' bureaus for AstraZeneca, Eli Lily, Lundbeck, Schwabe, Sepracor, Servier, Pierre Fabre, Janssen and Neuraxpharm. J.Z. has received grant/research support from Lundbeck, Servier, Brainsway and Pfizer, has served as a consultant or on advisory boards for Servier, Pfizer, Abbott, Lilly, Actelion, AstraZeneca and Roche and has served on speakers' bureaus for Lundbeck, Roch, Lilly, Servier, Pfizer and Abbott. J.M. is a member of the Board of the Lundbeck International Neuroscience Foundation and of Advisory Board of Servier. A.S. is or has been consultant/speaker for: Abbott, AbbVie, Angelini, Astra Zeneca, Clinical Data, Boehringer, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Innovapharma, Italfarmaco, Janssen, Lundbeck, Naurex, Pfizer, Polifarma, Sanofi and Servier. C.M.L. receives research support from RGA UK Services Limited.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the treatment of choice for severe mental illness including treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Increases in volume of the hippocampus and amygdala following ECT have consistently been reported.
To investigate neuroplastic changes after ECT in specific hippocampal subfields and amygdala nuclei using high-resolution structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov – NCT02379767).
MRI scans were carried out in 14 patients (11 women, 46.9 years (s.d. = 8.1)) with unipolar TRD twice before and once after a series of right unilateral ECT in a pre–post study design. Volumes of subcortical structures, including subfields of the hippocampus and amygdala, and cortical thickness were extracted using FreeSurfer. The effect of ECT was tested using repeated-measures ANOVA. Correlations of imaging and clinical parameters were explored.
Increases in volume of the right hippocampus by 139.4 mm3 (s.d. = 34.9), right amygdala by 82.3 mm3 (s.d. = 43.9) and right putamen by 73.9 mm3 (s.d. = 77.0) were observed. These changes were localised in the basal and lateral nuclei, and the corticoamygdaloid transition area of the amygdala, the hippocampal–amygdaloid transition area and the granule cell and molecular layer of the dentate gyrus. Cortical thickness increased in the temporal, parietal and insular cortices of the right hemisphere.
Following ECT structural changes were observed in hippocampal subfields and amygdala nuclei that are specifically implicated in the pathophysiology of depression and stress-related disorders and retain a high potential for neuroplasticity in adulthood.
Declaration of interest
S.K. has received grants/research support, consulting fees and/or honoraria within the past 3 years from Angelini, AOP Orphan Pharmaceuticals AG, AstraZeneca, Celegne GmbH, Eli Lilly, Janssen-Cilag Pharma GmbH, KRKA-Pharma, Lundbeck A/S, Neuraxpharm, Pfizer, Pierre Fabre, Schwabe and Servier. R.L. received travel grants and/or conference speaker honoraria from Shire, AstraZeneca, Lundbeck A/S, Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH, Orphan Pharmaceuticals AG, Janssen-Cilag Pharma GmbH, and Roche Austria GmbH.
The working environment may have a significant effect on response to treatment of depression and this issue has not yet been sufficiently addressed in the scientific literature. There is evidence showing that being engaged in high-level positions can be an obstacle to the success of treatment. This article discusses the few evidence in the literature and some of the possible mechanisms involved. Specific personality attributes and difficulties in adapting to depression may delay access to care and may also reduce treatment compliance. The presence of stress in jobs that require high cognitive function and lack of social support may be elements that hinder the recovery process. Residual symptoms that impact on cognitive functions may undermine adherence to treatment and adversely affect the response. The implications of these issues are potentially relevant for clinical practice in the treatment of depression and for future research.
Information on efficacy and safety of electroconvulsive therapy in patients with dementia is sparse. The current case report describes a patient suffering from severe depression and dementia who received electroconvulsive therapy with S-ketamine anesthesia at our psychiatric intensive care unit for the treatment of her therapy-resistant catatonic stupor. The patient's condition improved remarkably through the treatment. By the end of 16 electroconvulsive therapy sessions, her catatonic symptoms remitted entirely, her affect was brighter and she performed markedly better at the cognitive testing.
Bipolar disorders are a group of psychiatric disorders with profound negative impact on affected patients. Even if their symptomatology has long been recognized, diagnostic criteria have changed over time and diagnosis often remains difficult. The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), issued in May 2013, comprises several changes regarding the diagnosis of bipolar disorders compared to the previous edition. Diagnostic categories and criteria for bipolar disorders show some concordance with the internationally also widely used Tenth Edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10). However, there are also major differences that are worth highlighting. The aim of the following text is to depict and discuss those.
Since 1984, 447 articles have been published using the acronym “SAD” for seasonal affective disorder in the heading of the publication, and since 1992, 59 articles have used “SAD” in the heading of the publication as an acronym for social anxiety disorder, according to MEDLINE. Using the acronym SAD for social anxiety disorder has been used with more frequency in recent scientific publications—interestingly, mostly in connection with newer antidepressants that have been found to be of therapeutic potential for this indication. To avoid possible confusions in research, the acronym “SOAD” was proposed for social anxiety disorder by Kasper and Winkler and “SAnD” by Nutt (D.J. Nutt, MD, PhD, unpublished data, 2004)—seemingly without success since these abbreviations are not seen in the literature. This month, CNS Spectrums focuses on the existing literature on the original acronym for SAD—seasonal affective disorder and its worldwide recognition.
In the early 1980s, Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) set out to describe a syndrome called SAD, not to be confused with the other, more recent SAD, social anxiety disorder. The original has been known to physicians since ancient times, dating back to Aretaeus the Cappadocian. However, the NIMH researchers for the first time systematically described the clinical symptomatology, compared it with healthy controls, and differentiated SAD from nonseasonal depression. Their work in tandem with emerging technology led to the discovery of the underlying pathophysiology of SAD and treatment approaches. The most important of these approaches were light therapy and pharmacotherapeutic options.
Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) represents a significant challenge for physicians. About one third of patients with major depressive disorder fail to experience sufficient symptom improvement despite adequate treatment. Despite this high occurrence of TRD there was no general consensus on diagnosis criteria for TRD until 1997 when researchers proposed a model of defining and staging TRD. In 1999, others defined operational criteria for the definition of TRD. Treatment of TRD is commonly separated into pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic methods. This review gives a short overview of these two methods. The nonpharmacologic methods include psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and vagus nerve stimulation. Pharmacologic methods include switching to another antidepressant monotherapy, and augmentation or combination with two or more antidepressants or other agents. This review especially focuses on the augmentation of the antidepressant therapy with atypical antipsychotics.
Most effective antidepressants directly or indirectly increase the synaptic concentrations of serotonin (5-HT) and/or norepinephrine (NE) by blocking the reuptake of one or both of the neurotransmitters. This property was initially discovered with the tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Their various additional interactions at different receptors and ion channels are not required for antidepressant action, but are responsible for the poor tolerability and toxicity in overdose of the early antidepressants.
The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are effective and well tolerated. Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, such as reboxetine, also have proven antidepressant activity. A selective action on one or the other of the principal monoamines thus appears to be sufficient for antidepressant activity. The idea that a dual action on both neurotransmitters might produce greater efficacy in certain patients led to the development of the serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressants, which block the reuptake of both 5-HT and NE without the nonspecific, side-effect–inducing interactions of the TCAs. The three SNRIs—venlafaxine, milnacipran, and duloxetine—constitute a new class of antidepressants.
Antidepressant response rates rarely exceed 60% to 70% and remission rates are usually <50%. Although SNRIs clearly provide superior efficacy in certain populations, their use has not dramatically changed antidepressant therapy. The search for agents that are more effective, rapidly acting, and better tolerated continues. However, clinicians must find ways to better use the antidepressants that are available today. This supplement, based on a symposium held at the International Forum on Affective Disorders in Budapest in December 2007, discusses several everyday problems in the treatment of depression, with a focus on SNRIs.