Half of Depression Patients Abandon Drug Therapy

Dealing with depression is a struggle, but it seems adhering to a treatment plan is the real battle. Researchers at the Catalan Institute of Health in Lleida, Spain conducted a retrospective study of depression patients to pinpoint possible demographic factors that influenced the successful or unsuccessful continuation of treatment. According to the results, patients taking multiple antidepressant medications stayed on course the longest.

Nearly 50 percent of the subjects had discontinued treatment between their second and fourth month; only 25 percent remained on treatment for more than 11 months. In general, women remained on treatment one month longer than men. Comparing the populations that had the longest treatment, women continued treatment for an average of 12 months, while men continued treatment for an average of eight months. Overall, subjects taking more than one medication had the longest duration of treatment, continuing treatment for two months longer than subjects taking one medication. One of four subjects taking multiple medications continued treatment for 25 months, while one of four subjects taking one medication continued treatment for seven months. Age and type of medication were proven to be insignificant factors through further analysis.

Data was obtained from the public health drug dispensation records for the region of Lleida, Spain recorded from 2003 and 2007. Subjects were qualified if they received antidepressant medication in 2003 yet had not taken antidepressants a year before the study in 2007. The total number of qualified subjects was 7,525. Researchers collected information about gender, age, type of medication and number of medications. They also recorded how long the subjects remained on treatment, the number of prescription refills during treatment, and the number of recurring episodes of depression.

The reason for higher treatment compliance rates among multi-medication subjects is largely unknown. One theory was that patients prescribed multiple medications suffered from chronic depression, and, therefore, were more aware of the consequences that would occur if they abandoned treatment.  Another theory was that these patients also had depressive symptoms that were highly responsive to medication. However, the data collected from the health records did not include detailed information such as depression symptoms, intensity and actual recovery rates, so these theories are largely unsupported.

Further research is necessary to determine biological and cultural factors that influence treatment adherence, such as personality, pessimism, and stigma. A study focusing on the of depression found that adults that had a high perception of stigma were less likely to continue treatment.

For more information on the different types of antidepressant treatment, consult a doctor or counselor.

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