Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): An Effective Treatment for Depression


 New study published in Biological Psychiatry


Philadelphia, PA, December 5, 2007 – For the first time in a large-scale study, transcranial magnetic stimulation has been shown to be an effective, non-drug treatment for major depression. Current antidepressant therapies are not beneficial for at least a third of depressed individuals, leaving many with a lack of adequate treatment options. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive technique that excites neurons in the brain by magnetic pulses introduced through the scalp, has previously been identified as a potential new treatment for depression but prior, smaller studies have shown conflicting results. This new study, published in the December 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry, now shares its findings.


O’Reardon and colleagues present the results from the first large scale, multi-center, double-blind, sham-controlled study of TMS as a treatment for people with depression who had not responded to prior antidepressants and who were not taking antidepressant medications during the study. After 4-6 weeks of active or sham TMS, response and remission rates with active TMS were approximately twice those of sham. This study was also associated with a low dropout rate, due to generally mild side effects, indicating that the treatment was well-tolerated by patients.

Dr. O’Reardon, the corresponding author on this project and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, explains, "These results indicate that TMS provides a novel and attractive treatment option for patients with major depression who have not responded to conventional antidepressant medications.” John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, highlights the significance of this article’s findings: “This study provides new support for the efficacy of TMS as a ‘stand alone’ treatment for depression. This finding could be particularly important for patients who do not tolerate antidepressant medications, for whom they are not safe, or who have not benefited from other alternative treatments.” Dr. O’Reardon adds, “As indicated by recent large scale, government-sponsored, studies of existing treatment options for major depression conducted by the National Institute of Health (the STAR-D reports), there is a great need to develop new effective treatments for patients, especially those not benefiting from first line interventions. The results of this study indicate that TMS offers new hope to patients in this regard.”

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Notes to Editors:
The article is “Efficacy and Safety of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in the Acute Treatment of Major Depression: A Multisite Randomized Controlled Trial” by John P. O'Reardon, H. Brent Solvason, Philip G. Janicak, Shirlene Sampson, Keith E. Isenberg, Ziad Nahas, William M. McDonald, David Avery, Paul B. Fitzgerald, Colleen Loo, Mark A. Demitrack, Mark S. George and Harold A. Sackeim. Dr. O’Reardon is affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Solvason is with the Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. Dr. Janicak is with the Department of Psychiatry, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Sampson is affiliated with the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Isenberg is with the Department of Psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri. Dr. McDonald is affiliated with the Emory University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Avery is with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Fitzgerald is affiliated with the Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre at The Alfred and Monash University School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine in Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Loo is with the School of Psychiatry, University of NSW in Sydney, Australia. Drs. Nahas and George are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. Dr. Demitrack is with Neuronetics, Inc. in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Dr. Sackeim is with the Department of Biological Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute and College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 62, Issue 11 (December 1, 2007), published by Elsevier.
The full listing of the STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) reports, referenced by Dr. O’Reardon, is available through the National Institutes of Health clinical trials website, www.ClinicalTrials.gov. The direct link is available here: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT00021528?order=1.
Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Jayne M. Dawkins at (215) 239-3674 or ja.dawkins@elsevier.com to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.
About Biological Psychiatry
This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.

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