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Depression and the heart: Clinical trials in progress

A published study looks at prognosis when a patient is assigned a 'collaborative care manager'; a coming study examines treatment with an antidepressant.

February 21, 2011|By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times

A handful of clinical trials are underway across the country to directly assess whether successful depression treatment — be it medication or some form of supportive therapy — improves a patient's cardiac prognosis.

One was published in December in the New England Journal of Medicine. Conducted by researchers in Washington state, it found that when a nurse acted as a "collaborative care manager" for patients with depression and a host of risk factors for heart disease — ensuring that they were being treated effectively for all — they had less depression and greater improvement on measures such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose control than those who had no such coordinator. A similar trial is underway at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Another study, expected to wrap up this month at Duke University, aims to gauge whether depressed heart patients treated with the antidepressant sertraline (better known by its commercial moniker, Zoloft) and a supervised aerobic exercise regime fare better than those who get a placebo pill and a recommendation to exercise.

Some of the planned trials will measure the direct effect of depression care on heart disease, tracking subjects' subsequent heart attacks, heart failure or artery-clearing procedures.

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