Maintenance therapy for chronic depression. A controlled clinical trial of desipramine.

Department of Psychiatry, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, New York, USA.
Archives of General Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 13.75). 10/1996; 53(9):769-74; discussion 775-6.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Previous studies have shown the efficacy of antidepressants in the treatment of chronic depression. We report the results of a long-term study comparing desipramine hydrochloride and placebo for maintenance therapy of remitted patients with chronic depression.
Outpatients who met DSM-III-R diagnostic criteria for "pure" dysthymia (n = 51), dysthymia with current major depression ("double depression") (n = 64), or chronic major depression (n = 14) were treated on an open basis with desipramine. Full and partial remitters after 10 weeks entered a continuation phase of open treatment with desipramine for 16 weeks. Remitted patients then were randomized to continue desipramine treatment or tapered to placebo treatment for a maintenance phase of up to 2 years. Relapse rates and time to relapse during maintenance therapy were compared between the two treatment groups.
Acute-phase treatment results did not differ significantly according to chronic depression subtype. Remission persisted with a high degree of stability during the continuation phase. Relapse rates during the maintenance phase were 52% for the placebo group and 11% for the active desipramine group (chi 2 = 8.1, P = .004). Most placebo relapses occurred during the first 6 months of maintenance therapy. Active medication was significantly more effective than placebo in that subgroup entering the maintenance phase in full remission and in those patients who fulfilled criteria for a diagnosis of pure dysthymia or double depression on entry to the study.
Long-term maintenance treatment with desipramine appeared to be effective in the prevention or postponement of relapse of depression in patients who responded to desipramine during the acute and continuation phases.