David Prietz has struggled with depression for more than 20 years. He’s tried a slew of different antidepressants and even electroconvulsive therapy, but, for the most part, nothing much has worked. Nothing, that is, except for an experimental agent he received in the fall of 2011, when he enrolled in a clinical trial of AZD6765, one of a new class of drugs designed to provide rapid symptom relief for people with major depression who don’t respond to traditional antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Prietz, 48, a scheduling supervisor at a sheet-metal manufacturer in Rochester, New York, who has been on disability leave for several years, started to feel his head clear from the fog of depression within days of receiving AZD6765. After his second infusion, he vividly began noticing the fall foliage of the trees outside his doctor’s office—something he hadn’t previously appreciated in his depressed state. “The greens seemed a lot greener and the blue sky seemed a lot bluer,” he says. Although the lift lasted only a couple months after the three-week trial finished and the drug was taken away, the experience gave Prietz hope that he might one day get better. “I can’t recall feeling as well I did at the time,” he says.