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Medication Alone Insufficient in Treating Depression in Parkinson's Disease

Tuesday June 25, 2013

National Parkinson Foundation

Sacramento Bee - New findings from the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) Parkinson's Outcomes Project show that antidepressants alone do not improve depression in Parkinson's disease. Depression was most effectively treated at centers that refer their depressed patients to a mental health professional or social worker. These findings were presented last week during the 17th Annual International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders in Sydney, Australia, June 16-20, 2013.

In the study, "Approach to Treatment of Depression in Parkinson's Disease," Peter Schmidt, Ph.D., and colleagues examined which approaches to depression care correlated with the lowest prevalence of depression among patients seen at NPF's Centers of Excellence. Patients were treated with antidepressant medications, counseling by a social worker, treatment by a mental health professional, or a combination.

"This work is part of the larger NPF mission: to determine what works best in the treatment and care of Parkinson's with an aim toward slowing the impact of the disease," said Peter Schmidt, Ph.D., lead author of the study and Vice President, Programs at NPF. "This particular study highlights the importance of team care, something NPF has long advocated at its Centers of Excellence. We found the best care is achieved when neurologists coordinate with other health professionals to aggressively fight Parkinson's. In fact, a 'depression team,' consisting of a social worker and a psychiatrist coordinating with the neurologist, yielded the best results."

The study, analyzing 2,423 patients at 10 NPF Centers of Excellence found 1,121 depressed patients (46%), but at the best center only 30% showed signs of depression. Centers prescribed antidepressant medications to between 29% and 63% of their depressed patients, but high-prescribing centers achieved no significant reduction in depression versus low-prescribing centers. Other treatments, however, did correlate with better outcomes.

This work is part of the Parkinson's Outcomes Project, a longitudinal look at which treatments produce the best health outcomes. Started in 2009, the study represents data from more than 6,000 people with Parkinson's disease in four countries.

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