Depression is a very difficult disorder to treat. Even though many drugs are available, most only work for a few years and then stop working. Consumers often go through a process of trial and error to determine which drug will work. In a desperate attempt to find such a drug, most depressed patients spend many thousands of dollars on antidepressants that never work.
So far there is no way of telling who will respond to the antidepressants and for how long they will work. Close to 60 percent of depressed patients never respond fully to the first prescribed antidepressant medication.
Now there is research which indicates that perhaps researchers can tell if an antidepressant is likely to work in a depressed patient.
With this method, a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is measured in the blood. The researchers at Loyola University observed that that among depressed patients who had higher than normal blood levels of VEGF, more than 8 percent experienced partial or complete relief from depression after taking escitalopram (Lexapro®). By comparison, fewer than 10 percent of depressed patients who had low levels of VEGF responded to the drug. (1)
Dr. Angelos Halaris, MD, author of the study said that this is the first time that a test has been available to predict response to an antidepressant. If the study is validated in more patients, then it would greatly benefit patients. Doctors would be able to predict ahead of time if a given antidepressant is going to be effective.
In this small study 35 patients took escitalopram for depression. Escitalopram is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Other common SSRIs include Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil.
So far no one is sure why SSRIs work in some people and not in others. It is believed that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that may not be responsive to the antidepressant.
In this study, researchers believe that the drug escitalopram most likely helps jump start the inactive brain. The regenerative capacity of the brain is boosted by VGEF.