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GSK's anti-seizure drug shows promise in early depression study

Published on 02/11/18 at 11:39am

Researchers have found that GlaxoSmithKline’s ezogabine (Potiga), approved by the FDA in 2011 as an anti-seizure therapy, could have applications as a treatment for treatment-resistant depression.

Following its approval in the US, the FDA ordered GSK to conduct additional safety studies after concerns were raised that the drug’s use could affect the retina and ultimately cause blindness. Though it was later found to be safe, GSK eventually withdrew Potiga from the market due to lacking sales.

Ezogabine works by stimulating the area of the brain that controls potassium, an area which has been shown in animal models to be reduced in those affected by depression. To see if this holds true in humans, the team administered daily doses to 18 patients with depression over a period of 10 weeks.

It was found that a number of participants saw a 45% reduction in depressive symptoms, along with an increased ability to feel pleasure and greater ability to resist and recover from stress. MRI scans revealed that the brain’s reward system was activated by the drug, which in turn reduced depression symptoms.

"This drug might be relevant for patients who don't do well with conventional antidepressants," remarked lead researcher Dr James Murrough, Director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Programme at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.

The drug was not effective in all participants, but it is reasonable to assume that this could be because depression is not one single condition, but several which affect different areas of the brain, Dr Murrough said, stressing the need for more research and alternative approaches in tackling the illness.

"Ongoing research is trying to find new ways to treat depression based on understanding what's going on in the brain when someone gets depressed and how can we reverse that," he said.

The team is now in the process of conducting a larger trial comparing ezogabine’s efficacy against placebo.

Matt Fellows

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