Anti-inflammatory drugs found to exert antidepressant effect

Research has suggested that taking anti-inflammatory medicines has a positive effect in reducing symptoms of major depression.

Statin tablets next to a pill box

Anti-inflammatory agents are associated with improved symptoms in major depressive disorder (MDD), a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry suggests (28 October 2019)[1]

The researchers identified 30 randomised controlled trials involving 1,610 participants with MDD and 7 different anti-inflammatory drugs. The studies lasted between 4 and 12 weeks.

They found that the patients taking anti-inflammatory agents had a significantly larger reduction in depressive rating scales (Standard mean difference âˆ’0.55; 95% confidence interval [CI] −0.75 to −0.35) than those taking placebo.

They also discovered that patients who received anti-inflammatory agents were 52% (CI 1.30–1.79) more likely to respond to treatment and 79% (95% CI 1.29–2.49) more likely to achieve remission than those assigned to placebo.

The effects were strongest for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, omega-3 fatty acids, statins and minocyclines, and when anti-inflammatory treatment was received as an adjunct to antidepressant therapy rather than as monotherapy.

Research has shown that inflammation is involved in the development of MDD, but studies of the efficacy of anti-inflammatory drugs have provided conflicting results, the team explained. They said that their findings suggested promising effects of anti-inflammatory agents in MDD.

“However, owing to the chronic course of MDD, quality of life and adverse effects should be further investigated in high-quality randomised clinical trials with long-term follow-up,” they concluded.


[1] Bai S, Guo W, Feng Y et al. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2019; In press. doi:10.1136/jnnp-2019-320912

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, January 2020, Vol 304, No 7933;304(7933):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207445

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