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Pitt to study depression treatment options for older adults

Ben Schmitt
| Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 4:54 p.m.
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Dr. Jordan Karp (front left) and Dr. Charles F. Reynolds III (front right) are helping to lead a team of University of Pittsburgh researchers studying how older adults can better manage depression symptoms.
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Dr. Jordan Karp (front left) and Dr. Charles F. Reynolds III (front right) are helping to lead a team of University of Pittsburgh researchers studying how older adults can better manage depression symptoms.

University of Pittsburgh researchers are part of a new study aimed at helping older adults better manage depression symptoms.

Pitt is recruiting up to 300 participants 60 and older to determine whether new or additional anti­depressants are effective in battling the disease. Similar research will be done in New York, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Toronto.

“Depressed older adults often see little benefit from the medications that we typically use to treat depression,” said Dr. Jordan Karp, associate professor of psychiatry, anesthesiology, and clinical and translational science at Pitt's School of Medicine.

More than half of depressed older adults do not respond to the antidepressant medications they take, Karp said.

“We don't yet know what the safe and effective treatment options are for these patients,” Karp said. “Older adults likely respond differently to medications than younger people, and this study will break new ground by identifying those differences.”

The five-year study is called OPTIMUM. Costs are being covered by a $13.5 million grant from the Washington-based Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute — an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress.

Major depressive disorder affects 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population 18 and older.

“It's normal to be concerned about maintaining brain health and independence as you age,” said Pitt's Dr. Charles F. Reynolds III, a geriatric psychiatrist. “A way to preserve these functions and keep people more active and healthy in their community is to reduce risk factors. By finding ways to treat difficult depression, we can reduce a potent risk factor for many of these concerns that plague older adults.”

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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