A new study indicates that an over-the-counter supplement may help people with depression who haven’t responded to anti-depression drug therapy.


Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts general hospital have found that S-Adenosyl-Methionine or SAMe, when added to a patient’s antidepressant treatment aided more people with major depression to reduce and improve their symptoms than those that took a placebo in additional to their regular drug therapy.


SAMe  also caused fewer complications, in comparison to the FDA approved medications that are recommended for patients with depression that are unresponsive to antidepressants.


Dr. George Papakostas, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author said, “This is an exciting, yet preliminary finding.”


Also, he noted, during our lifetime, up to 10 per cent of people will experience a major depressive disorder, defined as at least 124 consecutive days of multiple symptoms of depression.  Approximately 50 per cent of those affected don’t improve, using multiple antidepressant drugs.


The FDA has approved only a few other drugs for these patients to take, in addition to antidepressants.  The atypical antipsychotic drugs can have significant serious side effects that are occasionally life-threatening.


The current study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Papakostas and his colleagues administered SAMe to 39 people with major depression that hadn’t responded to antidepressant therapy.  They took 1.6 grams of SAMe everyday with their regular treatment.  Thirty-four matched patients took a placebo (an inert substance) in additional to their antidepressants.  The participants did not know if they were receiving SAMe or the placebo.


The researchers used two standard tests for depression to monitor their symptoms for the next 6 weeks.


About 25 percent of the patients in the study did not complete it because they didn’t improve, or experienced side effects of either the placebo or SAMe.  There were no serious side effects reported, and a similar number of patients stopped because they didn’t like the placebo or SAMe.


Thirty-one of the patients taking SAMe and 24 receiving the placebo completed the study. Review of the depression tests revealed that more patients on SAMe than those receiving the placebo responded and their symptoms improved.


Earlier studies have determined that SAMe influences brain chemicals and may act as an antidepressant or interact with antidepressant drugs, but it’s action isn’t entirely understand. SAMe occurs naturally in our bodies and is sold as a supplement.


According to Dr. Papakostas, “(this finding) is exciting because SAMe works differently than what we have now-it doesn’t seem to be associated with the kind of side effects that FDA approved treatments for this niche have.  Like other findings in medicine, it needs to be replicated.


Source:  American Journal of Psychiatry