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Center For Late Life Mood Disorders Awarded $6.8M From National Institutes Of Health To Support Research And Treatment​

PITTSBURGH, September 14, 2005 — One in five older Americans live with significant symptoms of depression, many do not seek treatment. To develop and test new treatment methods for late life depression, anxiety, grief and insomnia, and to bring these treatments to the people who need them the most, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has awarded a five-year, $6.8 million grant to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry to create the Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research for Late Life Mood Disorders at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC).

The center will provide an infrastructure to support research and programs with the goal of improving the care of elderly people living with depression and other severe mood disorders. The center’s research will focus on the prevention of depression and suicide in the elderly, especially those at high risk due to other co-existing medical conditions; providing support and assistance to families of those with late life mood disorders; and removing barriers to effective treatment in the community setting, specifically the African American community.

“Depression and mood disorders affect the elderly in a much more complex way than they affect younger people, and many elderly have co-existing conditions that make the disorder harder on the patient and harder to treat,” said Charles F. Reynolds III, M.D. , professor of psychiatry, neurology and neuroscience. “With this center, we hope to bring the best treatments to those who need them the most.”

The Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research builds on years of research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh to develop new approaches to treating this problem. Related centers have been funded at similar amounts over the past 10 years, first as the Clinical Research Center in Late Life Mood Disorders (1995-2000) and later as the Intervention and Research Center for Late Life Mood Disorders (2000-2005). Each successive center grant builds on the work of the previous center.

These centers have supported research resulting in 17 grant awards from NIMH focused on treating mood disorders in the elderly, including depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety, and on preventing suicide in the elderly.

Additionally, research supported by the center has yielded impressive research findings that have had significant clinical applications for late life mood disorders. Results include:

Demonstrating effectiveness of combined antidepressant medication and interpersonal psychotherapy in people up to age 75 with recurrent major depression and the effectiveness of antidepressant pharmacotherapy for people over age 75 with single episodes of major depression.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of depression management strategies performed by non-physician clinicians for reducing suicidal thoughts and symptoms of depression in elderly people attending primary care clinics. In one study, researchers showed that these strategies were useful in real-world settings.

Discovering that the speed of response to antidepressant medication is dependent on a person’s genetics, which led to the idea that a pharmacogenetic analysis can help physicians and their patients understand how a patient will respond to a medication.

Establishing that most elderly people with depression also demonstrate some level of cognitive impairment. Treatment for depression can improve cognitive function to some extent, but rarely will it return to normal.

Under the new grant, investigators will continue to build on their past 10 years of research, with a more concerted focus on delivering effective treatments to the patients in the community setting. They plan to do this by forming alliances among the caregivers, family and community organizations to offer support to those who live with late life mood disorders.

The community partners that make up the Research Network Development Core will be key to creating these alliances. This group will help the center build a presence in the community and improve communication with older primary care patients. Partners include: Coordinated Care Network, Jeffrey S. Palmer, President and CEO; Community Medicine, Inc., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Francis Solano, M.D., President; and the Mental Health Association of Allegheny County, Brenda E. Lee, Executive Director.

In addition to Dr. Reynolds, primary researchers in the Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research include: Robert Bies, Ph.D., Charlotte Brown, Ph.D., Meryl Butters, Ph.D., Mario Cruz, M.D., Mary Amanda Dew, Ph.D., Linda Garand, Ph.D., Ariel Gildengers, M.D., Amy Kilbourne, Ph.D., Eric Lenze, M.D., Francis Lotrich, M.D., Ph.D., Lynn Martie, Ph.D., Sati Mazumdar, Ph.D., Benoit Mulsant, M.D., Harold Pincus, M.D., Bruce Pollock, M.D., Ph.D., Edward Post, M.D., Ph.D., Richard Schulz, Ph.D., Katalin Szanto, M.D., and Ellen Whyte, M.D.

For more information, visit the center’s Web site www.latelifedepression.org or call (412) 246-6006.

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