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Stanford Report, October 15, 2003

Clinical trial to investigate potential midlife depression treatment in women As boomers age, researchers study quality-of-life drug


The Stanford Women’s Wellness Program has launched a study of the drug escitalopram (brand name Lexapro) in the treatment of midlife depression. The research is part of the ongoing work of Natalie Rasgon, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine.

Researchers will test escitalopram’s effectiveness in women between ages 45 and 65, by comparing cognitive function and depressive symptoms before and after treatment.

It will also examine whether women who are already taking estrogen therapy respond more readily to antidepressant treatment.

Researchers say the incidence of major depression in the United States is expected to rise as baby boomer women move through their middle years, due to the dual risks of entering midlife and simply being female.

Women are up to twice as likely as men to experience depression at some point during their lives. This gender gap persists across social and cultural differences, according to a study published last month.

Women face even higher risk in midlife as they navigate life and hormonal changes. In a prior study conducted by Rasgon of 31 post-menopausal women, those taking hormone replacement therapy tested as less depressed and less angry and performed better on measures of verbal fluency and working memory than 16 peers who were not taking hormones.

Women between ages 45 and 65 who are currently experiencing an episode of major depressive disorder are eligible to participate in the study. All volunteers will receive the study medication and weekly doctor visits over a 12-week period.

For more information, contact Laurel Zappert at 725-1774 or send e-mail to

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