New blood tests could herald the way forward for antidepressant medications.

Yes, I’m a CBT therapist. But mostly, as taught to me at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, I’m a pragmatic CBT Therapist.

What matters when helping people with depression, anxiety and so forth is to use every available tool that is to hand. Antidepressants; the newer SSRI-type antidepressants are an enormous leap forward compared to the older antidepressants that we use to rely upon. These SSRI-type antidepressants can be literally a lifeline for many.

The SSRI-type antidepressants work and when they work, they work well. Whilst they may not change the underlying cognitive or behavioural patterns that feed the depression, anxiety and so forth, they certainly alleviate the horrendous symptoms of being depressed or anxious.

BUT, and it is a massive but, they don’t work in approximately 50% of people, meaning that those people need different antidepressant medications (SNRI-type or Non-SSRI/SNRI-type).

Here lies a massive problem. It can take absolutely ages, through basic “trial and error” strategies (as that is all we have had so far!) to find the most effective one for that person. Anything that assists the prescriber in determining the correct antidepressant straight away is a god-send. People can get effective help quicker, without having to wait months before finding out that their antidepressant just doesn’t suit them.

There is a way forward. New ground-breaking published research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, shows that patients who have blood inflammation above a certain threshold could be directed toward earlier access to more assertive antidepressant strategies, including the addition of other antidepressants or anti-inflammatory drugs.

Dr Cattaneo, first author on the research paper said: ‘This is the first time a blood test has been used to precisely predict, in two independent clinical groups of depressed patients, the response to a range of commonly prescribed antidepressants. ‘These results also confirm and extend the mounting evidence that high levels of inflammation induce a more severe form of depression, which is less likely to respond to common antidepressants.’ Dr Cattaneo added: ‘This study moves us a step closer to providing personalised antidepressant treatment at the earliest signs of depression.

For further information on this study, please click here.

Paper reference: Cattaneo, A et al (2016) Absolute measurements of macrophage migration inhibitory factor and interleukin-1-beta mRNA levels accurately predict treatment response in depressed patients The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology (IJNP)

Dr Paul Rogers – CBT in the heart of Cardiff