How FDA-Approved Medications May Help Treat Depression

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a serious medical condition that affects a large percentage of the world’s population. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 350 million people worldwide may be suffering from depression at any given time.

Sufferers often misdiagnose depression, believing that they are either just suffering from a lack of sleep or a poor diet. Even those who are aware that they are depressed may feel too ashamed to seek the help that they need.

For some, depression can be treated without medication, but for others, meds are an essential part of the treatment process. Antidepressants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are what are prescribed to help tackle the symptoms of depression.

Depression: The Diagnosis

The diagnosis of depression should only ever come from a health professional. They will look at several factors, such as severity, duration, and the appearance of some or all of the following symptoms”

  • Change in mood
  • A loss of interest in activities that previously brought joy
  • Weight loss and change of appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Restlessness or slowed movements
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Feeling of guilt and worthlessness
  • An inability to make decisions or concentrate for extended periods
  • Persistent thoughts of suicide or death

To begin your mental health evaluation, your doctor will usually take into account your previous medical history. They will then take a look at your current symptoms, ruling out other potential health issues, such as Parkinson’s disease and thyroid disease, before arriving at a diagnosis of depression.

There is also a better than average chance that your doctor will screen for bipolar disorder, a brain issue that can come with many of the same symptoms as depression. This screening is especially important, as a patient suffering from bipolar disorder who is prescribed with depression medication can end up suffering from elevated moods that border on mania. A person who becomes manic can very quickly turn psychotic.

Treating Depression with Medication

Medications used to treat depression are believed to work by altering the brain chemicals – serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, etc. – referred to as neurotransmitters. It is these chemicals that are responsible for regulating your mood.

Antidepressants tend to fall into certain classifications, such as:

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); these include the likes of Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Celexa (citalopram)
  • serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs); these include Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs); these include Pamelor (nortriptyline), Elavil (amitriptyline), and Tofranil (imipramine)
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs); these include Parnate (tranylcypromine) and Nardil (phenelzine)

Doctors may also prescribe the following antidepressants:

  • Remeron (mirtazapine)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)

The medications that are prescribed to treat depression have very different effects on the neurotransmitters in the brain. SSRI’s are designed to increase serotonin signaling, while MAOI’s block the enzyme responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters.

Mitchell Mathis, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products at the FDA, believes that there is evidence showing that a combination of prescribed antidepressants and talk therapy is the most effective way to treat patients with medication. It all begins with talking to your doctor about a diagnosis and the best form of treatment for you.



It may come as a surprise to some to learn that mammograms are still the most effective from of screening for breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actively ensures that facilities that provide screenings are certified, and that all new mammography devices are declared safe before use.

The Mammography Process – Does it Hurt?

A mammogram is essentially an X-ray of the breast performed at low dosage. Mammograms are still effective because they are able to detect breast lumps at a time when they are still too small to be detected by feel lone.

It should be noted here that nipple aspirate tests and thermograms are not substitutes for mammograms. In regards the scheduling and frequency of mammograms, Helen J. Barr, M.D., director of the Division of Mammography Quality Standards in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), suggests that the decision should be left in the hands of your health care provider.

When you go for a mammogram, you will be asked to remove your shirt and bra. You will them be asked to stand in from of the machine, after which a technologist will place your breast on a small platform. Your breast will then be pushed down by a clear plastic plate as the device takes the mammogram.

Many women skip this important test for fear that it will hurt, but most women will tell you that there is not much in the way of pain. There is certainly a little discomfort when pressure is applied to the breast, but it only lasts a few seconds. Barr explains that the compression is requires so that no breast tissue overlap occurs, allowing for a clearer mammogram result.

The FDA have strict regulations in place regarding the results of your mammogram. Those rules dictate that you should receive a full report within 30 days of the test, and that every effort should be made to contact you sooner of the results indicate some sort of potential health issue. If the results are not received within that timeframe, you should call your provider.

Between mammograms, you should also perform self-exams, and should talk to your health care provider if you notice issue such as lumps or nipple leakage. In fact, any type of change to the appearance of your nipple may indicate a possible health issue.

The Importance of Facility Certification

A U.S. law known as the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) requires that all facilities performing mammograms be certified by the FDA or an approved certifying agency. The goal here is to ensure that all facilities are safe and staffed by qualified technicians.

When talking about certification, Barr makes it clear that all facilities need to meet the high standards set out by the MQSA, as this will ensure that high quality mammograms are performed, allowing for the best chance at early detection.

All mammography facilities undergo an annual inspection performed by a trained evaluator. Equipment is inspected, and all staff are checked to ensure that they have the proper training and qualifications. Facilities also undergo an in-depth accreditation process every 3 years.

It is only certified facilities that can legally perform mammograms. Your health care provider should be able to refer you to such a facility, but you should also check for the certification, which should be on display, when you arrive.