Improved Antidepressant in the Works

By Rick Naurert PhD
March 17th, 2023
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.

Improved Antidepressant in the WorksA new laboratory compound appears to have the potential to become an important antidepressant, merging beneficial actions of current medications while lowering side effects.

Oregon State University chemists have applied for a patent on the compound with research findings published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Additional animal studies and eventually, human clinical trials are required before the compound could be approved for human medical use.

“Based on our results so far, this promises to be one of the most effective antidepressants yet developed,” said James White, a professor emeritus of chemistry at OSU.

“It may have efficacy similar to some important drugs being used now, but with fewer side effects.”

Early antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants, White said, often had undesirable effects such as constipation, dry mouth, drowsiness and hypotension, or low blood pressure. They worked by helping the body to raise levels of such neurotransmitter compounds as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and others.

A second generation of antidepressants, which included the drugs Prozac and Zoloft, were more selective and produced only minor side effects, but often took weeks to become effective and sometimes didn’t help patients adequately.

“The prototype of the third-generation drug in this field is Cymbalta, which tries to better balance the inhibited re-uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, further reducing side effects and offering more immediate efficacy,” White said.

“It’s been extremely popular.”

The new compound developed at OSU, however, has properties similar to Cymbalta in some ways, but in laboratory and animal studies does a better job at balancing body chemistry.

“Our compound is 10 times better than Cymbalta at inhibiting the re-uptake of norepinephine and comes close to the holy grail of a perfectly balanced antidepressant,” White said.

“It should produce even fewer side effects, such as concerns with constipation and hypotension. Final results, of course, won’t be known until the completion of human clinical trials.”

The OSU research has been supported by the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse — an agency interested in improved antidepressants, White said, because they are often used in treatment of alcoholism. The work has been done in collaboration with the University of Indiana.

Source: Oregon State University

Dr. Rick Naurert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Naurert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.