Arthritis drug increases effectiveness of antidepressants in bipolar patients

Giving severely depressed patients the arthritis drug celecoxib (Celebrex®) dramatically boosted the effectiveness of their antidepressant medication, a Loyola study has found.

Loyola Medicine psychiatrist Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, presented the study at the Fifth International Congress on Psychiatry and the Neurosciences in Athens, Greece. Dr. Halaris is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The eight-week study enrolled bipolar adults, aged 18 to 65, who were in the depressive phase of their disease and had not benefitted from an antidepressant. (Bipolar disorder is marked by alternating periods of elation and depression, with depression typically lasting longer.) Patients were randomly assigned to receive the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro®) plus celecoxib or Lexapro plus a placebo.

Seventy-eight percent of the patients in the celecoxib group experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in their depression scores, with 63 percent reporting their depression had gone away completely. By comparison, only 45 percent of the placebo group recorded a 50 percent or more reduction in depression, with only 10 percent reporting their depression had lifted completely.

It typically takes four to six weeks before an antidepressant begins working. In the Loyola study, patients who took celecoxib began seeing a benefit from their antidepressant within a week.
Fifty-five patients completed the study: 31 in the Lexapro plus celecoxib group and 24 in the Lexapro plus placebo group.

Previous studies have found that depression revs up the immune system, resulting in chronic inflammation. This inflammatory response affects the normal balance of chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters. Inflammation hinders the function of antidepressants that are designed to restore normal chemical balance. By fighting inflammation, celecoxib appears to make antidepressants more effective, Dr. Halaris said.

Celecoxib is used to treat pain, redness, swelling and inflammation from arthritis. It also can manage acute pain and menstrual cramps. By itself, it does not treat depression.

The study's findings support the hypothesis that inflammation plays a critical role in depression. Reducing inflammation with a drug such as celecoxib "reverses treatment resistance and enhances overall antidepressant response," Dr. Halaris wrote in the study. "Such an intervention, if implemented relatively early in the course of the disease, may arrest the neuroprogressive course of bipolar disorder."


Loyola University Health System


  1. Jason West Jason West United States says:

    I couldn't be more skeptical. Both meds and both classes of meds have not been shown to be effective and the FDA has ruled on this. Antidepressant are only off label and prescribed by reckless psychiatrists. Celecoxib has been studied for many years and the results obviously are not convincing enough; not enough for the FDA or AMA to approve of. Depression is not a monoamine deficiency. This also has been proven for twenty years. Like they say, an abscessed tooth is not a penicillin deficiency. The current state is that antidepressants should be used at no time for bipolar disorder. The sample size is not given and if these worked, the participants were most likely people with major depressive disorder misdiagnosed as bipolar. If they are bipolar, are they bipolar I or bipolar II, it could make a difference. My bipolar II friends can take antidepressants and not go psychotic. I don't have this luxury. If I'm wrong and this is effective in only one week (which is unheard of) it would be a miracle and I certainly would be ecstatic. Because of researcher bias and the notorious antidepressant placebo effect, one small study almost isn't enough to report on. One week sounds like a placebo effect. This is not uncommon.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
New CDC opioid guidelines: Too little, too late for chronic pain patients?