Arthritis Medication Increases Antidepressant Drug Effectiveness

Giving patients severely depressed, Celebrex (celecoxib) arthritis drug drastically increased the effectiveness of their antidepressant medications, according to a Loyola study.

Loyola Medicine psychiatrist Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, presented the study at the V International Congress of Psychiatry and Neuroscience in Athens, Greece. Dr. Halaris is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience of Behavior of the University of Loyola at the Chicago Medical School Stritch.

The eight-week study included bipolar adults, 18 to 65 years of age, who were in the depressive phase of their disease and had not benefited from an antidepressant. Patients were randomly assigned to receive the antidepressant Escitalopram (Lexapro) plus Celecoxib or Lexapro, plus a placebo. (Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating periods of exaltation and depression.

Seventy-eight percent of patients in the Celecoxib group experienced a reduction of at least 50 percent in their depression scores, with 63 percent reporting that their depression had completely disappeared. In comparison, only 45 percent of the placebo group reported a reduction of 50 percent or more in depression, with only 10 percent of reports of their depression fully eradicated.

It typically takes four to six weeks before an antidepressant starts working. In the Loyola study, patients taking celecoxib began to see benefit from their antidepressant in one week. Fifty-five patients completed the study: 31 in the Lexapro plus Celecoxib group and 24 in the Lexapro plus placebo group.

Previous studies have found that depression revs up the immune system, resulting in chronic inflammation. This inflammatory response affects the normal balance of chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters. Inflammation hinders the function of antidepressants that are designed to restore normal chemical balance. By combating inflammation, Celecoxib appears to make antidepressants more effective, Halaris said.

Celecoxib is used to treat pain, redness, inflammation, and inflammation of arthritis. It can also handle acute pain and menstrual cramps. By itself, it does not treat depression.

The study findings support the hypothesis that inflammation plays a critical role in depression. Reducing inflammation with a drug such as celecoxib “reverses treatment resistance and improves overall antidepressant response,” Dr. Halaris wrote in the study. “Such intervention, if implemented relatively early in the course of the disease, can stop the neuroprogressive course of bipolar disorder.”

Dr. Halaris’s study, “Controlling Inflammation Invests Resistance to Treatment in Bipolar Depression,” was presented at the International Congress of Psychiatry and the Neuroscience meeting from 6 to 9 October.