AI clinical trial to treat depression in Oxford University study

Volunteers are required for a clinical trial where people with depression will be treated by an AI algorithm.

Oxford University’s department of psychiatry is testing the digital tool known as Petrushka, which it said would personalise antidepressant treatment.

It uses data from more than one million people and recommends, in real-time, the best antidepressants for each individual during a consultation.

The team wants to recruit about 200 participants by the summer.

The trial will involve more than 500 participants in total.

Petrushka uses information from each patient, such as age, gender and symptom severity, and takes into account side effects.

The researchers claim it is an “innovative way to empower patients and share decision-making during the treatment process”.

Chief investigator Prof Andrea Cipriani said: “In real- world practice, antidepressants are usually prescribed based on the clinician’s knowledge.

“There are more than 30 antidepressants on the market but nine times out of 10 GPs prescribe one of just four antidepressants.

“This means that patients may not get the treatment that would be most effective or sustainable for them.

“We want to treat individuals, not averages.

“We want to be as precise as possible and identify the best treatment for each patient sooner based on what we know works for patients with similar characteristics, rather than wasting time trying treatments that might be less effective.”

Patients can sign themselves up for the trial and a short screening process will follow.

It is also being carried out in Canada and Brazil.

Trial manager Nyla Haque said: “The study lasts 24 weeks in total but after eight weeks we will see how many participants are still taking the allocated treatment.

“This measure will tell us how acceptable and well tolerated a treatment is.

“We will also collect information from the participants about their mood, anxiety, quality of life and any side effects during the entire duration of the trial.”

The scheme is being funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

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