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Study reveals frequent non-guideline treatment of late-life depression

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Published: 3 Mar 2005

A new study documenting the treatment of late-life depression by Canadian health professionals will be presented today at the American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

A new study documenting the treatment of late-life depression by Canadian health professionals will be presented today at the American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada. The study is the first to assess whether people diagnosed with late-life depression receive "guideline concordant pharmacotherapy" — medication recommended in guidelines issued by the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

The research, conducted by Dr. Maida Sewitch at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), followed the initial medication dispensed to over 5,258 Quebec seniors, immediately following diagnosis of depression.

Almost all the seniors studied (84%) were given some form of medication, but incredibly, only slightly more than half (55%) were given the recommended first-line antidepressants, according to the Canadian Psychiatric Association. "The rest (45%) were given other drugs, some of which are known to be unhelpful for depression, especially in the elderly," explains Dr. Sewitch.

One medication — a group of psychotropic drugs known as benzodiazepines — was dispensed to nearly 2,000 of the study's late-life depression patients. "There is evidence to suggest that this group of drugs may worsen depression or result in cognitive problems and falls in the elderly," says Dr. Sewitch.

The study also suggests that men — commonly diagnosed by psychiatrists in hospital settings — are more likely to receive guideline concordant medication than women — commonly diagnosed by general practitioners in out-patient settings. "These results highlight possible worrisome errors in the diagnosis and treatment of late-life depression," says Dr. Sewitch. "Further research is required in order to unravel the complexities."

About the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC)
The Research Institute of the MUHC is a world-renowned biomedical and health care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a university health centre affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1,000 graduate and postdoctoral students, and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. For further details visit the Research Institute website.

About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University — the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

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Contact: Ian Popple
Organization: MUHC Public Relations and Communications
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