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SAM-e Equally Effective as Prescription Drugs for Depression and Osteoarthritis

[Government Report Results on SAM-e]
[SAM-e and Depression | SAM-e and Joint Health]
[SAM-e and Liver Disease | About SAM-e]

Government Reports Results on SAM-e 

The popular, over-the-counter dietary supplement SAM-e (pronounced SAMMY) shows promise as an equivalent treatment to prescription drugs for depression and osteoarthritis and may help some chronic liver conditions. This information comes from a just-released SAM-e Evidence Report Summary on the supplement sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

"The Department of Health and Human Services hired an impeccable group of researchers to examine 102 clinical SAM-e studies to determine whether or not SAM-e works ... their results are quite compelling," said Hyla Cass, M.D., a Los Angeles-based clinical psychiatrist and UCLA assistant professor.

The Evidence Report on SAM-e was prepared for the HHS by Rand Corporation, a Southern Calif.-based think tank. A 16-person team of medical professionals worked for more than three years to conduct a SAM-e literature review and synthesis of evidence on 102 different human clinical studies of SAM-e to determine SAM-e's efficacy for treatment of depression, osteoarthritis and intrahepatic cholestasis associated with liver disease.

According to the SAM-e Evidence Report's summary, the team's key findings include evidence that:

  • SAM-e is as effective as prescription antidepressants

  • SAM-e fights osteoarthritis pain as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)

  • SAM-e helps some liver conditions

Also according to the SAM-e summary, the objective of the Evidence Report "was to conduct a search of the published literature on the use of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) for the treatment of osteoarthritis, depression and liver disease." The summary refers to the high annual costs -- $43.7 to $52.9 billion -- associated with treatment and lost wages for depression. It also states that an estimated 15 percent of Americans suffer from arthritis and the annual cost to society is estimated at $95 billion. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.

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SAM-e and Depression

Among the SAM-e findings culled from 47 studies on the treatment of depression, the summary concludes that "compared to the use of conventional antidepressant pharmacology, treatment with SAM-e was not associated with a statistically significant difference in outcomes."

"These new findings suggest that SAM-e works as effectively as prescription drugs and SAM-e does it without the side effects," added Dr. Cass.

"This is big news for patients who suffer side effects from prescription antidepressants such as headaches, weight gain and the most significant -- sexual dysfunction."

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SAM-e and Joint Health

The team also examined 14 studies of osteoarthritis, which causes pain in the joints. The Evidence Report summary concludes that SAM-e appears to work as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) in treating osteoarthritis.

SAM-e and Liver Disease

More than 40 studies of liver disease were analyzed for the SAM-e Evidence Report. The summary states promise that SAM-e may have an effect on intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. This condition, caused by elevated levels of bilirubin in the liver, occurs in 1 in 500 to 1,000 pregnancies.

The SAM-e report's summary recommends more studies on SAM-e in the area of liver disease as well as depression and osteoarthritis to understand "the risk benefit ratio of SAM-e compared to conventional therapy, especially for depression and osteoarthritis."

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About SAM-e

SAM-e is an acronym for S-adenosyl-L-methionine, a natural compound found in every human cell and involved in over 35 biochemical processes in the body. Low levels of SAM-e in the body have been correlated with depression. In addition, clinical research findings as demonstrated in this Report Executive Summary support SAM-e's ability to promote joint and liver health.

SAM-e has been touted for its fast acting mood elevating benefits and lack of side effects (such as weight gain and sexual problems) commonly found in prescription anti-depressants. It was officially introduced into the U.S. as a dietary supplement in 1998.

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Consumers interested in learning more may view the SAM-e Evidence Report Summary by logging onto the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research Quality web site at .

The entire SAM-e Evidence Report is available to the public at the same web site address.

Reprinted with permission of 
Medline plus Health Information: a service of the National Library of Medicine


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