Medical Minute: Drug Helps Depression

By: Jennifer Matthews
By: Jennifer Matthews

Just a few months ago, many things were unthinkable for Isabel Camarillo.

"I didn't want to live at all. I was always thinking of how to kill myself," she says.

She started hearing voices as a teenager. They didn't go away.

"It was like they were controlling my life."

Just a few months ago, at age 22, Isabel tried to kill herself. She has psychotic depression, an illness Dr. Alan Schatzberg says is hard to treat and even harder to live with.

"They have misperceptions about reality. They have odd beliefs, such beliefs as, 'I
am dying, I am sick, I have lost everything,’ ” Dr. Schatzberg says.

Shock therapy has been the only real help, but the stigma and side effects make it hard for patients to accept. Now, the controversial abortion drug ru486 is making an impact. The hormone cortisol is found in high levels in patients with Psychotic depression. By blocking that hormone, ru486 resets an area of the brain that is not working.

"You might be able to avoid the use of shock treatments for lots of patients and treat them with a pill."

Two-thirds of patients on the drug have significant improvement after just one week.

"It changed me completely. No matter if you think you're never going to be okay, there's always a way. I think I found my way already,” Isabel says.

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Keller
Stanford University

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