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Antidepressants Effective in Physically Ill

Last Updated: March 25, 2010.

Antidepressants are more effective than placebo for treating depression in physically ill patients, with results observed within weeks and persisting for months, according to a review in the March issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

THURSDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Antidepressants are more effective than placebo for treating depression in physically ill patients, with results observed within weeks and persisting for months, according to a review in the March issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Lauren Rayner and colleagues from King's College London reviewed 51 randomized trials involving 3,603 adults and performed a meta-analysis of 44 randomized trials involving 3,372 adults, examining the efficacy of antidepressants compared with placebo to treat depression in patients with a physical illness.

Six to eight weeks after randomization, the researchers found that antidepressants were more effective than placebo (odds ratio, 2.33), and the effects persisted after 18 weeks. Antidepressants were also more effective at several other time points. More patients receiving antidepressants dropped out than patients receiving placebo, and patients on antidepressants were also more likely to have dry mouth and sexual dysfunction.

"We conclude that antidepressants appear to be useful in treating depression and should be considered for physically ill patients," Rayner and colleagues write. "The decision to prescribe antidepressants should take account of patients' preferences, symptoms, and possible interactions with other medicines they are taking."

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