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New approach in depression treatment

Globally, over 300 million people suffer from depression. Thus depression is the most common mental disorder. Affected patients have symptoms of sadness, worthlessness and guilt and are severely impaired in their quality of life. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. In most cases, depression is curable and can be treated effectively. In addition to psychotherapy, first line treatment for severe-to-moderate depression is a drug therapy with antidepressants. Less than one third of patients suffering from depression experience complete remission of their illness when initially treated with antidepressant agents.  As a consequence, patients are treated with a trial-and-error approach, which is time-consuming, costly and increases the patient’s suffering.

On July 3, 2017, R-Biopharm AG invited psychiatrists and physicians for the advanced training program “Psychopharmacology – New Ways in Depression Therapy”.

In the company premises in Darmstadt about 30 psychiatrists and physicians gathered to listen to the innovations in psychopharmacological diagnostics. The first speaker was Prof. Dr. Christoph Hiemke, former head of the Neurochemical Laboratory of the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Mainz. He reported on the control of antidepressant therapy by Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM) and showed how important it is to monitor the drug serum level. This possibility of therapy control increases the likelihood of a faster antidepressant response, but is still too rarely applied.

Thereafter Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Florian Holsboer talked about the progress of personalized depression therapy. The former director of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and chairman of the management board of HMNC Brain Health AG in Munich spoke about the advantages of gene analysis in depression therapy. Each patient reacts individually to an antidepressant. One of the reasons for this is the transporter molecule P-Glycoprotein (encoded by the ABCB1 gene), which causes the blood-brain barrier to block certain antidepressants from entering the brain, thus preventing their effects. With the ABCB1 test, gene variants can be identified and the efficacy of numerous antidepressants predicted, which optimizes depression therapy.

What practical experience has been gained with the ABCB1 test in first application? This subject was addressed by Prof. Dr. med. Edith Holsboer‑Trachsler, extraordinaria for stress and dream research at the University of Basel, and teacher and researcher at the Center for Affective, Stress and Sleep Disorders (ZASS) in Basel. On the basis of numerous clinical case studies, she showed that a molecular genetic analysis in combination with TDM led to a shortened search for a suitable antidepressant. Overall, a promising new therapeutic approach – and an all around successful training event on a subject about which is still spoken in the future certainly.

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