May 19, 2011

A Body Clock Drug That Treats Depression

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ A drug that regulates your body clock may also be able to treat depression. A new study found that patients who take agomelatine have improved moods, sleep better and experience fewer side effects than those on traditional anti-depressants.

Most anti-depressants work by raising the levels of a chemical in the brain called serotonin, which affects mood. However the medications can lead to sickness and loss of sex drive. Scientists think agomelatine works well because people with clinical depression often have a disturbed circadian system or internal clock, which makes their symptoms worse. Researchers say the antidepressant effects of the drug may be due to its unique ability to bind melatonin receptors and block serotonin receptors in the brain.

"Agomelatine appears to not only target the mood symptoms of depression, but also the circadian and sleep-wake symptoms, which likely contribute to its effectiveness," the authors wrote. "Agomelatine is currently approved in the EU, US and Australia, and represents a significant step forward in the approach to the treatment of depression, and other mood disorders."

The paper was written by Ian Hickie, a professor from the University of Sydney and Associate Professor Naomi Rogers from Central Queensland University. The authors say the drug improves the mood of depression sufferers just as well as traditional drugs, but it also helps patients who often have trouble sleeping, waking in the night and feeling tired during the daytime. Researchers say agomelatine may be just as effective as other popular anti-depressants such as Prozac and Zoloft in the short term. In the long term fewer patients on agomelatine relapse (24 per cent) than do those receiving placebo (50 per cent).

The authors concluded because of the drug's ability to restore circadian function between depressive episodes, it may be able to manage some patients with severe depression and other major mood disorders. England's treatment rationing body, the National Institue for Health and Clinical Excellence, is currently examining whether or not agomelatine should be recommended for patients with depression.

SOURCE: Lancet, May 17, 2011