Can People With Nonsevere Major Depression Benefit From Antidepressant Medication?

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 5.5). 12/2011; 73(4):518-25. DOI: 10.4088/JCP.10m06760
Source: PubMed


Several meta- or mega-analyses suggest antidepressant medications should be given only to severely depressed patients. In our experience, mild depression benefits from medication. We reanalyzed 1 clinic's randomized placebo-controlled antidepressant studies, limiting analyses to patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) without severe illness, to determine whether nonsevere depression responds to antidepressant medication.
Archives of the Depression Evaluation Service outpatient clinic of the New York State Psychiatric Institute were searched for randomized, placebo-controlled antidepressant studies that were conducted between 1977 and 2009 and included patients having MDD and pretreatment Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) scores < 23.
Six placebo-controlled studies were found, including 8 active treatment arms and 1,440 patients. 825 patients were randomized and had MDD and an HDRS score < 23. DSM-III, DSM-III-R, or DSM-IV diagnostic criteria contemporary to each study were employed.
Treatments were compared within study and via a patient-level meta-analysis using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) of HDRS end point scores adjusted for pretreatment score. The number needed to treat (NNT) was calculated from remission rates (HDRS end point score ≤ 7), which were compared by χ². Effect sizes were calculated from change in HDRS scores. Secondary analyses investigated the effect of chronicity and atypical features on treatment response.
Three of 6 studies showed significant (P < .001) treatment effects by ANCOVA, and 4 of 6 studies showed significant (P < .04) differences in remission. The NNT ranged from 3 to 8. Effect sizes ranged from -0.04 to 0.8, with 4 of 8 greater than 0.4. The patient-level meta-analysis confirmed these results; neither chronicity nor atypical features significantly affected outcome. Secondary analyses utilizing global ratings and self-report mimicked the main findings.
Several studies demonstrated significant antidepressant efficacy for patients having nonsevere MDD. Efficacy was not trivial, as NNT ranged from 3 to 8, a range accepted by researchers as sufficiently robust to recommend treatment. These findings suggest mild-moderate MDD can benefit from antidepressants, contrary to findings by several other meta- or mega-analyses.

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    • "Although a prior meta-analysis has suggested that antidepressant treatment is most efficacious in patients with the most severe symptoms (Kirsch et al., 2008), the results of these analyses support the therapeutic benefit of vilazodone across a spectrum of depression severities. A retrospective analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials conducted in 2012 concurred with our results, finding significant antidepressant efficacy for patients with mild–moderate MDD (Stewart et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Vilazodone is a potent selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and serotonin 1A receptor partial agonist approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults. To assess the efficacy of vilazodone across a range of symptoms and severities of depression, data from two phase III, 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials were pooled for analysis. Overall improvement in depressive symptoms measured using the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale was statistically significant (P<0.05) for vilazodone treatment compared with placebo as early as Week 1 and continued throughout double-blind treatment. Vilazodone treatment compared with placebo showed significant improvement on all 10 individual MADRS symptom items at end of treatment (P<0.01). Rates of response and remission were significantly greater in the vilazodone group relative to the placebo group, with numbers needed to treat ranging from eight to nine for response and 12-17 for remission. Between-group treatment differences in MADRS and the other outcome measures were similar among all depression subgroups, with no consistent pattern associated with depression severity. These findings support the efficacy of vilazodone across a broad range of depressive symptoms and severities for the treatment of major depressive disorder.
    International clinical psychopharmacology 11/2013; 29(2). DOI:10.1097/YIC.0000000000000016 · 2.46 Impact Factor
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    • "The first is over-prescription for psychiatric conditions. Evidence does not show ADs to be highly clinically effective in treating moderate depression, which is frequently encountered in PC settings, although several recent studies have found that ADs could possibly be beneficial in treating milder episodes [13,14]. ADs are sometimes discontinued too early or prescribed too long [15,16]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Antidepressants (ADs) are commonly prescribed in primary care and are mostly indicated for depression. According to the literature, they are now more frequently prescribed for health conditions other than psychiatric ones. Due to their many indications in a wide range of medical fields, assessing the appropriateness of AD prescription seems to be a challenge for GPs. The aim of this study was to review evidence from guidelines for antidepressant prescription for non-psychiatric conditions in Primary Care (PC) settings. Methods Data were retrieved from French, English and US guideline databases. Guidelines or reviews were eligible if keywords regarding 44 non-psychiatric conditions related to GPs’ prescription of ADs were encountered. After excluding psychiatric and non-primary care conditions, the guidelines were checked for keywords related to AD use. The latest updated version of the guidelines was kept. Recent data was searched in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and in PubMed for updated reviews and randomized control trials (RCTs). Results Seventy-eight documents were retrieved and were used to assess the level of evidence of a potential benefit to prescribing an AD. For 15 conditions, there was a consensus that prescribing an AD was beneficial. For 5 others, ADs were seen as potentially beneficial. No proof of benefit was found for 15 conditions and proof of no benefit was found for the last 9. There were higher levels of evidence for pain conditions, (neuropathic pain, diabetic painful neuropathy, central neuropathic pain, migraine, tension-type headaches, and fibromyalgia) incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome. There were difficulties in summarizing the data, due to a lack of information on the level of evidence, and due to variations in efficacy between and among the various classes of ADs. Conclusions Prescription of ADs was found to be beneficial for many non-psychiatric health conditions regularly encountered in PC settings. On the whole, the guidelines were heterogeneous, seemingly due to a lack of trials assessing the role of ADs in treatment strategies.
    BMC Family Practice 05/2013; 14(1):55. DOI:10.1186/1471-2296-14-55 · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Depression is a potentially life-threatening disorder affecting millions of people across the globe. It is a huge burden to both the individual and society, costing over £9 billion in 2000 alone: the World Health Organisation (WHO) cited it as the third leading cause of global disability in 2004 (first in the developed world), and project it will be the leading cause by 2030. The serendipitous discovery of antidepressants has revolutionized both our understanding and management of depression: however, their efficacy in the treatment of depression has long been debated and recently been brought very much into the public limelight by a controversial publication by Kirsch, in which the role of placebo response in antidepressant efficacy trials is highlighted. Whilst antidepressants offer benefits in both the short and long term, important problems persist such as intolerability, delayed therapeutic onset, limited efficacy in milder depression and the existence of treatment-resistant depression.
    Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology 10/2012; 2(5):179-88. DOI:10.1177/2045125312445469 · 1.53 Impact Factor
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