UCLA launches $14 million initiative to combat depression in elderly population
UCLA and four other institutions won a $13.9 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to evaluate treatment for people with depression who have not responded to medications.
The project aligns with UCLA's Depression Grand Challenge, a university-wide research initiative that aims to reduce the health and economic impacts of depression by half by the year 2050.
The UCLA researchers will recruit 300 people age 60 and older that have had at least two rounds of antidepressant treatment and are deemed to be treatment-resistant.
UCLA psychiatry professor Helen Lavretsky, MD, will lead the project.
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In addition to those 300 participants at UCLA, 1,500 more will be recruited and studied at four other sites: Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Toronto and Columbia University – making the trial the largest-ever study of treatment-resistant depression in older adults.
The study will provide clinicians with evidence on the comparative effectiveness of switching people to a new medication, or augmenting their current medication with a second drug. It will also explore how aging-related factors affect the benefits and risks of different strategies.
According to UCLA officials, more than half of older adults who are treated for depression find that eventually their treatments are no longer effective, putting them at greater risk of accelerated aging, declining mental health and suicide.
“Persistent depression decreases older adults' quality of life more than any other illness,” Helen Lavretsky, director of the program at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a statement, "No more than 30 to 40 percent of people respond to first-line treatments.”
Participants for the program will be recruited using electronic medical records to identify those age 60 and older who are taking antidepressants or who took them in the recent past. Also, referrals will be elicited from clinicians who are treating people for depression. Participants will be monitored weekly.
"Understanding the risks and benefits of antidepressant strategies in older adults could vastly improve the quality of life of seniors and save billions of dollars each year in health care costs," Lavretsky added. "This public health issue is one that will rapidly grow with the aging of the U.S. and world populations."