Researchers at Emory University have found that a medication that inhibits inflammation may offer new hope for people with difficult-to-treat depression. The study was published September 3, 2012 in the online version of Archives of General Psychiatry. "Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection or wounding,” says Andrew H. Miller, M.D., senior author for the study and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. "However, when prolonged or excessive, inflammation can damage many parts of the body, including the brain." Prior studies have suggested that depressed people with evidence of high inflammation are less likely to respond to traditional treatments for the disorder, including anti-depressant medications and psychotherapy. This study was designed to see whether blocking inflammation would be a useful treatment for either a wide range of people with difficult-to-treat depression or only those with high levels of inflammation. The study employed infliximab, one of the new biologic drugs used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. A biologic drug copies the effects of substances naturally made by the body's immune system. In this case, the drug was an antibody that blocks tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a key molecule in inflammation that has been shown to be elevated in some depressed individuals. Study participants all had major depression and were moderately resistant to conventional antidepressant treatment. Each participant was assigned either to infliximab or to a non-active placebo treatment.
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