The researchers are looking at the effects of a new drug, Metyrapone, which inhibits the production of steroids in the body. Steroids, such as cortisol, hamper the effectiveness of anti-depressant drugs. And depression has long been linked with increased amounts of stress, meaning that many who suffer from it produce too much cortisol, reducing the effectiveness of drugs in these people.
If it proves successful it could change the way that patients are treated, and potentially allow many to recover far quicker than at present. For anyone interested in taking part the contact telephone number is 0191 2563256. A hundred people with depression are being recruited for the trial from an area covering Northumberland to Middlesbrough. Run by Newcastle University and involving The universities of Manchester and Leeds in the UK, the study needs volunteers from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust areas.
Depression affects eight per cent of the population at some point during their lifetime and one in every hundred develops symptoms so severe that the patient is unable to work.
Professor Nicol Ferrier, Professor of Psychiatry at Newcastle University, who is running the trial in the North East, said: “When people are stressed, as they often are with depression, they produce much more of the steroid cortisol, it is one of the body’s natural responses, the fight or flight reaction to stress.
“People who have increased levels of steroids in their system do not react as well to the anti-depressant drugs we give them, so this has a big knock-on impact on the effectiveness of the drugs. In some cases it can make them little more than useless.
“This trial is about trying to block that steroid production, which we hope will make the anti-depressants much more impactful. A pilot study in people in Germany using Metyrapone has shown that this impact is there and we have now progressed to testing this on patients in a full clinical trial.
“If we can get these people back to a normal life quicker, that will be a better outcome for them and it will also help to save money by potentially allowing them to get back to work. But we need more volunteers to come forward to enable this research to continue.”
The study is funded by a research grant awarded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) programme, which is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and is sponsored by Northumberland and Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
The researchers need patients from across the North East to take part in the trial. Metyrapone or a placebo is added to existing antidepressants for three weeks and the effects studied over the next few months. The research group are also carrying out some blood and other tests including brain scanning to investigate how the drug works.
If you are interested in taking part please phone 0191 2563256 or visit the website.
21 year old Katrina Allcroft has suffered from depression since she was 11 years old, and has just signed up to take part in the Metyrapone trial.
Despite having thirteen GCSEs and six A-levels, Katrina has struggled to hold down a job and lives with her mum in Longbenton.
She said: “I have been on different types of drugs for many years and they seem to work for a while but then lose their effectiveness and I have to try a new type. Sometimes they just don’t work at all.
“I get very stressed a lot, it doesn’t take much to trigger it, and if that is making the drugs I take less effective then it’s something I’m keen to find out and hopefully find a solution to.
“I had a job for a while, but I didn’t get on with the boss and had to leave. Having depression just affects every aspect of your life, it’s always with you. It affects your relationship with people, your career prospects, everything.
“This trial could hopefully help me and others in a similar position get back on our feet a lot quicker and get on with our lives.”