Important step toward identifying effective treatment for childhood depression

December 09, 2001

An important step has been taken toward identifying safe and effective medications for treating severe depression in children and adolescents, a serious illness that affects about one youth in 20.

Currently, there are no anti-depressant medications approved for use in children and adolescents. "Unfortunately, there is very little information available about treatment for depression in children and adolescents," said Dr. Karen Dineen Wagner of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Wagner is a member of a team of researchers who conducted a multi-site clinical trial of the effectiveness of citalopram - a popular adult anti-depressant marketed as Celexa by Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. - with young patients. "The results of the study show that citalopram may help to relieve the suffering of youths with depression," Wagner reported on Sunday, Dec. 9, at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology held in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Finding effective treatments for this childhood order is particularly critical. Children who suffer from clinical depression lose interest in activities and have low energy, poor concentration and sleeping problems. They may feel so hopeless that they want to kill themselves. Clinical depression can have a devastating impact on children's school performance, friendships and family relationships. Children who are depressed are likely to experience depression in adulthood. Therefore, treatment of this childhood disorder is critical, Wagner said.

The citalopram trial involved 177 children and adolescents diagnosed with major depression with ages ranging from seven to 17 years. The patients received either the drug or a placebo (a pill without any medicine in it) for eight weeks. The children who received citalopram showed a significantly greater improvement in mood compared to the group that received the placebo. Side effects, which included nausea, influenza-like symptoms and inflammation of the nose, were mild. About equal numbers of children taking the drug and taking the placebo dropped out of the study due to side effects, Wagner reported.

Previous, but more limited clinical trials have reported that two other members of the same drug family known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors - paroxetine and fluoxetine - are also safe and effective in children and adolescents.
The clinical trial was funded by Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Wagner states that she does not have any financial stake in the company or its products beyond serving as a paid consultant.

The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), founded in 1961, is a professional organization of some 600 leading scientists. Members are selected primarily on the basis of their original research contributions to the field of neuropsychopharmacology, which involves the evaluation of the effects of natural and synthetic compounds upon the brain, mind and human behavior. The principle functions of the College are research and education. ACNP's annual meeting is limited to participants from around the world who have made major research or clinical contributions in the field.

American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

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