Antidepressant medication use in palliative care.
ABSTRACT Depression and other mood disorders occur in approximately 25 percent of terminal patients. Untreated, depression and mood disorders can have a significantly negative impact on patients and families. Screening for depression can be done as easily as asking one question: "are you depressed?" A positive response to this question can be followed with one of the more extensive screening tools. Anxiety disorders can also have a negative effect on patients and their families. These can be identified by also using one of the validated screening tools. Use of the antidepressant medications for treating depression and, in some cases, anxiety disorders has not been well studied in hospice and palliative care. Some of the antidepressants can also serve as adjuvant therapy in pain management.
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ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to examine the effects of the SSRI antidepressant drug citalopram on anxiety, depression and mental adjustment to cancer in terminally ill cancer patients, considering also the 5-HTTLPR genetic polymorphism. A group of twenty-one consecutive patients admitted to the hospice of the Casa di Cura Pineta del Carso (Trieste, Italy) with different types of advanced cancer, who were clinically judged to require treatment with an antidepressive drug, was treated with citalopram for two weeks. The response was determined and related to 5-HTTLPR. Citalopram significantly reduced the scores on the depression and anxiety subscales of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). When the effects of citalopram were analyzed in relation to the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism, the HADS depression score was significantly decreased only in patients with the "l/l" allelic variant of the serotonin transporter conferring high functional activity, while the score of the Mini-MAC fatalism scale was significantly increased in patients carrying at least one "s" allele. These preliminary findings seem to indicate that two weeks of treatment with citalopram are effective in reducing depressive symptoms in terminally ill cancer patients. Moreover, the effects of citalopram on fatalism as a strategy of mental adaptation to cancer, and on depressive symptoms depend on the allelic variants of the 5-HTTLPR genotype of the patients. These results seem to encourage the examination of a larger patient sample and of different treatment schedules, as well as a more thorough characterization of fatalism as a coping strategy in cancer patients.Tumori 95(4):479-83. · 0.92 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: In palliative care, few data are available on the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders and of difficulties of mental adaptation to cancer for patients in the advanced phases of the disease. SSRI antidepressants are the treatment of choice; the 5-HTTLPR genetic polymorphism of the serotonin transporter (SERT) has been shown in psychiatry to significantly determine the therapeutic response and the incidence of adverse effects. The aim of the present investigation has been therefore to examine the effects of the SSRI antidepressant escitalopram, also considering 5-HTTLPR, on depression, anxiety and mental adaptation to cancer in palliative care. Eighteen consecutive depressed patients with different forms of advanced cancer admitted to the Hospice Ass 6 of S. Vito al Tagliamento (Pordenone, Italy) were genotyped for the "s" and "l" variants of 5-HTTLPR and were treated with escitalopram. Their response after two weeks of treatment was psychometrically evaluated. Treatment with escitalopram significantly decreased anxiety scores on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) (P = 0.006) as well as anxious preoccupation (P = 0.007) and hopelessness-helplessness (P = 0.017) scores on the Mini Mental Adjustment to Cancer (Mini-MAC) scale. When patients were stratified by SERT genotype, HADS anxiety was significantly decreased in patients carrying the "s/s" and "s/l" variants (P = 0.024), whereas those with an "l/l" genotype displayed a significant reduction of Mini-MAC anxious preoccupation (P = 0.018). The results of this study indicate that the use of SSRI antidepressants is effective in the palliative care of cancer patients, and their action affects not only depression but also the patients' mental adaptation to the disease. These results encourage further examination of these drugs in a larger cohort of patients. The significant contribution of pharmacogenetics indicates the possibility of personalized treatment with SSRIs in palliative care.Tumori 01/2011; 97(3):358-61. · 0.92 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This study compared the prevalence of anxiety and depression as measured on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) in palliative care patients being treated at home with those being treated as inpatients. The participants were palliative care patients being treated at home (n = 46) and palliative care inpatients (n = 46). Subjects were assessed for functionality on the Karnofsky Performance Status Scale (KPS) and anxiety and depression were measured on the HADS. The results showed that ~20% of all patients were depressed and anxious as measured on the HADS, regardless of the cutoff criteria. There was no significant difference in depression and anxiety between the two groups when socioeconomic status and functionality were controlled for. Functionality, as measured on the KPS, was uniquely a predictor of depression, and younger patients were shown to have greater anxiety. The results suggest that home-based palliative care patients and palliative care inpatients should receive equal psychological support, and that clinicians need to be aware of the psychological vulnerability of younger and less-functional patients. The prevalence of depression and anxiety indicates that all palliative care patients should be screened for psychological distress, to identify those who need further assessment and treatment.Palliative and Supportive Care 12/2011; 9(4):393-400. · 0.98 Impact Factor