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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Depression to Weigh Heavily on Future Society

VIENNA, Austria -- Depression will become a huge burden on society in the future, costing billions of dollars in treatment and lost productivity, unless better drugs are developed to combat the disorder, a recent study showed.

The report, presented by Oxford University professor of psychiatry Guy Goodwin at a recent conference of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Vienna, showed that psychiatrists are dissatisfied with the treatments available.

The study by British research company ISIS on behalf of Organon, a business unit of chemicals group Akzo Nobel, involved 150 doctors -- mostly psychiatrists -- who attended the World Congress of Biological Psychiatry in France in June.

"Depression is becoming more, not less, of a problem to society. We cannot afford to ignore this serious and often deadly illness," Goodwin said, speaking ahead of the four-day Vienna forum.

Depression -- mood and anxiety disorder -- is estimated to cost the United States alone over $53 billion a year, mainly through absenteeism among workers and reduced productivity.

The study showed that most psychiatrists agreed with a World Health Organization forecast that depression will be the leading cause of disability in the developing world by 2020.

"Only 14 percent of psychiatrists believe patients are satisfied with the treatment they currently receive," Goodwin said.

At the same time Professor Norman Sussman of the New York University School of Medicine outlined his experience of Organon's new antidepressant Remeron, or mirtazapine, which has been on the U.S. market for just over one year.

"It is an excellent and ground-breaking first choice treatment for depression," he said.

Remeron's quick effects, efficacy and tolerability were all important factors in its favor, he added.

"Many patients experience an almost immediate improvement in sleep, and highly anxious and agitated patients report immediate relief of these symptoms," Sussman said.

Remeron is a novel dual-action drug that acts on both the brain's noradrenergic and serotonergic neurotransmitters. An imbalance of these compounds is believed to be the cause of depression.

Antidepressants come in three main classes -- tricyclics, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which just act on the serotonin transmitter, and dual-action noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants.

Professor David Nutt of Bristol University's psychopharmacology unit said Remeron will have a very positive future role in treating depression.

"I was impressed. It has a unique mode of action, a very nice side-effect profile, and it's very safe," he said.

Sussman said he had found Remeron to be superior in its efficacy to Eli Lilly's Prozac, the best-selling treatment for depression.

Organon says its new drug has fewer side-effects than other antidepressants, which can cause sexual dysfunction, a dry mouth, constipation and nausea. Remeron causes some weight gain and drowsiness but is safe in high doses.

Remeron is available in 16 countries and was expected to be released in Britain late last month and in France early next year.