Patching up depression

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New skin patch relieves the blues

In a study, almost half of the people who wore an antidepressant skin patch recovered after only six weeks, and many of them “showed remarkable improvement much sooner,” according to researcher Alexander Bodkin. “The patch worked, and worked rapidly without toxic side effects. The potential is very exciting.” Bodkin and his colleagues, working at six medical centers, completed the first tests of the patch in 1998. The centers included Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont, where Bodkin did his research. These tests involved 177 people; 89 of them wore patches with an antidepression drug and 87 wore placebo patches with no drug. Six weeks later, 42 percent of those who wore the active patch (37 people), no longer felt the pangs of depression. The patients continued to wear their patches for three months after their symptoms disappeared. “Some of these people couldn’t even remember how it felt to be depressed,” Bodkin comments. “It could be the best treatment for about 20 percent of patients with depression, an illness that strikes an estimated 10 percent of people each year in the U.S. alone, and is one of the leading causes of disability in the world.”