(NewsUSA) - While there are many therapies to treat depression, a large government study found that only one-third of people with depression will reach remission with their first antidepressant.

Psychiatrist Pat Rabjohn, MD, Ph.D., CEO of the Rabjohn Behavioral Institute, answers common questions about depression and new discoveries helping improve the prospects of individuals with this disorder.

"Depression must be treated as aggressively as we treat cancer," says Dr. Rabjohn. "Our goal is the absence of symptoms."

Q: What is major depressive disorder?

Dr. Rabjohn: Depression is characterized by low mood, decreased energy, lack of interests and feelings of hopelessness. Depression is currently listed by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disability worldwide. The successful treatment of depression remains elusive for many individuals.

Q: Why do so few patients achieve remission?

Dr. Rabjohn: Researchers have identified a genetic link associated with the risk of depression and reduces the effectiveness of antidepressants. Up to 70 percent of patients with depression may have this defect. This defect affects levels of L-methylfolate.

Adequate levels of L-methylfolate are required by the brain to regulate serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine; important chemicals associated with mood. If the brain has inadequate quantities of L-methylfolate, the likelihood of antidepressant drugs working effectively may be diminished.

Q: Can adding L-methylfolate help?

Dr. Rabjohn: The good news is that recent studies have shown a significant benefit when Deplin® (L-methylfolate 15mg), a prescription medical food indicated for the dietary management of metabolic imbalances associated with depression, is added to antidepressants. In a retrospective study conducted by Red Oak Psychiatry Associates, PA Baylor Health Care System supported by Pamlab, LLC, individuals diagnosed with depression received either antidepressant therapy (called SSRIs or SNRIs) or one of these antidepressants and L-methylfolate. After sixty days, significantly more patients in the L-methylfolate group achieved a major reduction in depressive symptoms with less discontinuation due to adverse events compared to the antidepressant alone group.

In a double-blind study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital supported by Pamlab, LLC, individuals who were inadequately responding to their antidepressant (an SSRI) received either placebo or L-methylfolate along with their antidepressant. Significantly more (twice as many) individuals in the L-methylfolate group responded to their antidepressant therapy in 30 days, and discontinuation rates due to adverse events were no different in either group.