Treating Depression in Parkinson’s Disease

As you would think, depression can be extremely deep in a disease like Parkinson’s because it robs the person of the ability to move properly, which makes it difficult to do the things they did in their lives. Even in its early stages, it can be a source of embarrassment because of the shaking, even though people should not feel embarrassed at what they cannot control. But common thought had been that anti-depressants would make the disease worse because they often modify the chemicals in the brain. But a new study is showing that not only is that is wrong, but they actually can be useful in helping the person battle the emotional struggles of the disease.


The study looked at 115 different patients, all over 30 and had no sign of dementia, but did have Parkinson’s and clinical depression. They divided the patients into three groups, each one representing a particular style of drug, whether it was an SSRI, a SNRI, or a placebo. The purpose of the research was to find out, of course, if these could be taken without aiding the disease to further develop. The good news is that none of these seemed to have any effect at all on the state of the person’s progression, meaning it didn’t make it worse. But researchers did note that, like in the general population, there were still side effects. These things included insomnia, fatigue, constipation, sexual side effects and in rare cases, chest pressure, bowel obstruction and in one patient, heart rhythm issues. That person had to leave the program, but they were the only one.

All in all though, the medicine was fairly well tolerated by the body and actually did improve their symptoms, the actual anti-depressants almost doubling that of the placebo. For Paxil (Paroxetine) which modifies the serotonin levels which improves the patient’s mood, it was a 59% improvement. For Effexor (Venlafaxine) which uses an extended release to modify serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain to accomplish the better mood had a 52% improvement. This was compared to the 32% for those who took the placebo.

Irene Hegemen Richard, who is a scientific advisor for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, was glad to see that the findings allowed for the possibility of doctors to use these drugs to help patients deal with the horrors of the disease, as I’m sure the patients will be.
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