Researchers have found that adding the nutritional supplement SAMe to a standard antidepressant may be helpful to patients who have not responded to single-drug treatment for clinical depression. The pilot study found that treatment with both SAMe and an antidepressant improved symptoms in half the study participants and produced complete relief of symptoms in 43% of participants.
“One of the most common problems in treating depression is the number of people who are left with symptoms after initial treatment with a first-line antidepressant,” says Jonathan Alpert, MD, who led the study.
A substance that is found in every human cell, SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine) is a commonly used dietary supplement. Although some reports had suggested it might be useful in treating depression, few rigorous research trials have been carried out.
The study enrolled 30 participants who had continued to have significant depression after more than a month of treatment with drugs. During the six-week study, participants received SAMe along with their antidepressant, starting at 400 mg of SAMe two times a day and increasing to 800 mg twice a day after two weeks.
At the end of the study period, analysis showed that 50% of participants had significant improvement in their symptoms and 43% had complete remission of their depression. Although two participants dropped out because of treatment side effects, there were no reports of serious adverse events.
The MGH team notes that the current study has many limitations – including its small size, the lack of a control group and the fact that participants knew they were taking an active dose of SAMe. They are planning a larger, controlled study.
Massachusetts General Hospital, Dec 1, 2004