Crisis in Research and Treatment
Depression is among the most serious health problems facing our society, causing untold human suffering and enormous economic costs. Despite its prevalence, depression is misunderstood, under-funded and under-researched.
Current treatments for depression remain severely limited. Since the introduction of Prozac nearly 30 years ago, there have been no new categories of antidepressants, only variations of the existing SSRIs and SNRIs (targeting serotonin and norepinephrine, only two of hundreds of neurotransmitters).
Yet over 50% of depressed individuals do not respond to any type of existing medications, or various types of therapy, according to a recent major study (STAR*D, Rush et al, 2006.) In fact, they become worse with repeated episodes of depression. Those that do respond to existing medications often experience troublesome side effects.
What is needed is not simply more “me-too” drugs, but new therapeutic approaches that are based on a fundamental understanding of the brain’s complex mood centers. However, advanced brain research is stalled because government funding has been reduced, and many of the large drug makers have closed their neuroscience research programs. Experts point to a crisis in research and a dry pipeline for urgently-needed new treatments.
Private initiatives such as HDRF are doing essential cutting-edge research to come up with new medications, treatments and answers.
CURRENT STATE OF DEPRESSION RESEARCH
- The exact physical causes of depression remain unknown.
- It is known that genetics and childhood trauma may play a role in the biological origins of depression.
- Stress and other stressors may bring on depression, but are not the underlying causes of depression.
- There is no medical diagnosis for depression (like a blood test or brain scan). Diagnosis is still based on subjective criteria.
- Research shows that only 50% of patients respond to existing medications – (STAR*D, Rush et al 2006)
- Since the introduction of Prozac in 1985, there have been NO new medications (except variations of existing SSRI’s and SNRI’s).
- We do not know how SSRI’s and SNRI’s actually work. The biological mechanism is still unknown.
- Pharmaceutical research is stalled – Many of the major drug makers have cancelled their basis neuroscience research.
- There is limited knowledge for prevention of depression.
- Although depression is the second most prevalent illness in the U.S. today, it ranks 68th (out of 235) in the amount of federal funding it receives.