Researchers have found a new antidepressant compound that might act more quickly and with fewer side effects than the most commonly used antidepressants, according to an announcement by Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“Based on our results so far, this promises to be one of the most effective antidepressants yet developed,” said James White, PhD, a professor emeritus of chemistry at OSU. “It may have efficacy similar to some important drugs being used now, but with fewer side effects.”

An older class of antidepressants called tricyclics actually works more quickly than the later class called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac. Unfortunately, tricyclics also cause more side effects than SSRIs.

Scientists suspect the reason tricyclics are quicker is because they help balance several brain neurotransmitters, unlike the SSRIs, which affect just serotonin. There is, however, a newer SSRI-type antidepressant, called Cymbalta (duloxetine), that affects both serotonin and norepinephrine.

“Our compound is 10 times better than Cymbalta at inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine and comes close to the holy grail of a perfectly balanced antidepressant,” White said. “It should produce even fewer side effects, such as concerns with constipation and hypotension. Final results, of course, won’t be known until the completion of human clinical trials.”