Novel treatment for major depressive disorder available

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a trialled and tested treatment for major depressive disorder could soon become affordable to the average Australian. An article in the Medical Journal of Australia this week has called for a medicare item number for TMS. This will make it an accessible treatment to those who need it. Currently, private out-patients fork out a prohibitive $6000 for a course of 20–30 TMS treatments delivered over 4–6 weeks. TMS may also become available as a treatment for major depressive disorder to in-patients as part of a private psychiatric clinic admission.

TMS is less invasive than electro convulsive therapy (ECT) and does not require an anaesthetic team and recovery room to conduct the treatment. Like ECT, which is effective in many patients, TMS is recommended for patients with treatment-resistant depression but does not cause memory impairments that some ECT patients experience.

The article says that over the past two decades TMS has been subject to robust testing; 59 sham controlled trials, 30 systematic reviews and meta-analyses as well as naturalistic studies with effective results.

Depression affects at least one in five people during their lifetime. Three-quarters of depressive illnesses start before the age of 24 and half before the age of 18.

An item number for TMS would help all people who need it to access this important therapeutic advance.

Med J Aust 2018; 208 (11): 468. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00849

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