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Depression treatment lacking for many people

January 4, 2010 |  1:00 pm

Fluoxetine Treatment for major depression is abysmal, according to a study published today in the Archives of General Psychiatry. In a national survey of 15,762 people, it found that only half of all people with depression received treatment. And among those who did receive treatment, only 21% were getting care that is consistent with American Psychiatric Assn. guidelines.

Researchers at UCLA and Wayne State University found that nearly 45% of individuals with depression received psychotherapy with no medication. Only 34% received antidepressants. African Americans and Mexican Americans were prescribed antidepressants a third less often than whites.

In another study, also in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers found that a growing number of Americans are being prescribed combinations of antidepressants and antipsychotic medications even though there are few studies that support the benefits of such combinations.

The study examined prescribing data from 13,079 psychiatry office visits between 1996 and 2006. Researchers found a growing trend in the use of more than one psychotropic medication, such as combinations of antidepressants and sedatives, antidepressants and antipsychotics or two different antidepressants. The authors, from Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University Medical Center, cautioned that combinations can increase the chances of adverse side effects.

The proper use of treatments for mental illnesses will take on greater significance this year, the authors of the first study noted. As of Jan. 1, the U.S. Mental Health Parity Act goes into effect, which should increase access to care for people with major mental health disorders. Information on the parity act is available here.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Fluoxetine pills for treatment of depression. Photo credit: R. David Duncan III  /  AP

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