Blood test to tell whether anti-depressants work

December 16th, 2011 - 7:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 16 (IANS) In a brand new discovery in the field of psychiatry, scientists have found a new method by which it can be known whether an anti-depressant drug will work on a depressed patient or not. It involves a blood test for a protein called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF).

Researchers made the discovery while conducting a study at the Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois, US. The study involved a group of patients who took Escitalopram for major depressive disorder. Escitalopram belongs to a class of anti-depressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

More than 85 percent of depressed patients who had higher than normal blood levels of VEGF, experienced partial or complete relief after taking escitalopram.

Conversely, fewer than 10 percent of depressed patients who had low levels of VEGF responded to the drug.

“This would be the first time we would have a predictor for how well a patient would respond to an anti-depressant. It would greatly benefit our patients if we could predict ahead of time whether a given medication would be effective for a certain patient,” said Angelos Halaris who led the study.

About 60 percent of depressed patients do not respond fully to the first prescribed drugs. Consequently, doctors often must prescribe a different medication again and again before finding one that works.

Scientists aren’t certain why SSRIs work in some patients but not in others. One possible mechanism is that SSRIs help restore a chemical balance in the brain.

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