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Best treatments for depression

See which drugs and other options that could help you the most

Published: September 2013

Antidepressants can improve the symptoms of depression. But they can also cause serious side effects, so you don't want to take one if you don't have to. The information in this report can help you decide—with your doctor or mental health professional—whether an antidepressant might be right for you, and if so, which one.

Retail prices for commonly prescribed antidepressants range from about $21 a month, and sometimes even less, to more than $1,000 a month. This report shows how you can save more than $100 a month or $1,200 a year, if you have to take an antidepressant regularly.

Here's a thumbnail guide to help you decide if you should consider medication:

  • It is normal to feel "down" or "blue" in the wake of a stressful life event, such as the death of someone close, a divorce, or a job loss. If you are still able to function and have no history of depression, your symptoms will usually ease on their own within a few months, aided, if necessary, by family support and professional counseling, without the use of an antidepressant.

  • If you are not functioning well and your symptoms have lasted for a few weeks, you are more likely to be a candidate for an antidepressant. That is especially true if there is no apparent reason for you to be depressed or if you have had repeated episodes of depression.


Your doctor may not be aware of price differences between medicines, so be cautious if he or she offers you a free sample of an antidepressant that they happen to have in their office. While getting a medication for free may be tempting, the drug may not be the right one for you. Individual needs vary and people respond to antidepressants quite differently. Some have to try two or three antidepressants before finding one that works.

Taking effectiveness, safety, side effects, and cost into account, we have chosen fiveConsumer Reports Best Buy Drugs as initial options to consider for depression:

  • Generic bupropion
  • Generic citalopram
  • Generic escitalopram
  • Generic fluoxetine
  • Generic sertraline

These medicines are substantially less expensive than brand-name antidepressants and are equally as effective. Both bupropion and escitalopram are more expensive than the others, so if cost is a concern, that may be something to consider when choosing an antidepressant for the first time. If you have drug coverage, talk with your doctor about finding the antidepressant that has the lowest out-of-pocket cost under your insurance plan. 

Other important considerations:

  • Start with the lowest therapeutic dose. If it doesn't help within six to eight weeks or causes side effects, talk with your doctor about changing the dose or switching to another antidepressant.
  • If you took an antidepressant before and it worked, you may want to stick with that one.
  • Tell your doctor whether the differences in side effects among the antidepressants are important to you.
  • If you already take an antidepressant and it is working for you, we don't recommend that you switch to another one.

Editor's Note: These materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).
   

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