Prozac Proves Successful In Treating Major Depression In Children And Teens

November 13, 1997

DALLAS -- November 14, 1997 -- After four years of study, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas researchers have concluded that the drug Prozac is just as effective for treating major depression in children and teens as it is in adults.

The research, led by Dr. Graham Emslie, professor of psychiatry and holder of the Charles E. and Sarah M. Seay Chair in Child Psychiatry, was reported in the November Archives of General Psychiatry.

This is the first time any antidepressant medication in a controlled study has been shown to be more effective than a placebo in young people aged 7 to 17, although only a few studies have been completed. Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and is thought to work by increasing serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, a chemical naturally present in the human body, is associated with changes in mood.

The study involved 96 depressed young people; half received a placebo, and half took the standard dose of 20 milligrams per day of Prozac (fluoxetine). Fifty-six percent of those who took Prozac for two months showed "much" or "very much" improvement, compared to 33 percent of those who took a placebo. Seventy-four percent of patients completing eight weeks of Prozac improved.

Emslie said he considers the findings important to the field of child and adolescent psychiatry. Antidepressants, he said, have typically been prescribed to young people based on experience with adults because little information has been available specifically on children and adolescents.

"Most people don't realize the devastating effects that depression in children and adolescents has on individual families as well as our society as a whole," Emslie said. "Depression is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in these age groups. School failure and dropping out are common outcomes for depressed children and adolescents, and suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in adolescents."

Other researchers in the study included Dr. A. John Rush, vice chairman for research in psychiatry and holder of the Betty Jo Hay Distinguished Chair in Mental Health and the Rosewood Corporation Chair in Biomedical Science; Dr. Warren A. Weinberg, professor of neurology and associate professor of pediatrics; and Dr. Robert A. Kowatch, assistant professor of psychiatry.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

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