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Clinical and Research News
Alternative Treatments May Have Some Use in Depression
Psychiatric News
Volume 45 Number 15 page 17-17

Are any complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) treatments effective against major depressive disorder?

Perhaps a few of them, APA's Task Force on Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported in the June Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Yet it is impossible at this point to say whether any one of the treatments is more effective than another for this indication, Marlene Freeman, M.D., a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and head of the task force, told Psychiatric News. The reason, she explained, is that "it is extremely difficult to compare the evidence from one CAM treatment to that for another, as study designs and number of studies have varied."

The following is a brief look at the findings of the task force:

The task force also examined the side effects and costs of these therapies. It found, for example, that the omega-3 fatty acids have a low risk of side effects and are inexpensive, that SAMe has a relatively low risk of side effects and is expensive, and that St. John's wort carries a risk of interactions with drugs such as antiretrovirals, immunosuppressants, antineoplastic agents, anti-coagulants, and oral contraceptives.

"The sheer scope of CAM use in the U.S. is fascinating and somewhat daunting," Freeman said. "Over 40 percent of adults use at least one CAM treatment annually, demonstrating how accessible and attractive these treatments are to our patients. However, we found that very few CAM treatments [for major depression] have received rigorous study. Our task force hopes that our report will serve as a foundation for future research in this area.... Any treatment for a serious psychiatric disorder, whether considered CAM or conventional, needs to be rigorously studied for effectiveness and safety."

The task force's review was funded by APA.

An abstract of "Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Major Depressive Disorder: The American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report" is posted at <http://article.psychiatrist.com/dao_1-login.asp?ID=10006918&RSID=61741980543423>.blacksquare

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