, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 109-127

Aripiprazole as Adjunctive Therapy for Patients with Major Depressive Disorder

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Aripiprazole was initially approved to treat schizophrenia and later approved for bipolar mania, as a monotherapy and an adjunctive therapy (manic or mixed episodes), and for irritability associated with autism. Aripiprazole is a partial agonist at dopamine D2 and D3 and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, and is an antagonist at 5-HT2a receptors. This profile, and convincing preliminary data from small-scale studies, provided the rationale for the large-scale exploration of aripiprazole for unipolar depression. Recently, three 6-week, large-scale, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials demonstrated clinically meaningful efficacy for aripiprazole as an adjunctive therapy to antidepressants for treating major depressive disorder (MDD). In November 2007, aripiprazole was approved by the US FDA as an adjunctive therapy to antidepressants for treating MDD, with support from two of the above-mentioned trials. In the trials, aripiprazole was demonstrated to be safe and well tolerated, and showed a minimal trend for weight gain over the course of a 6-week treatment. The incidence of akathisia was higher than that reported in studies of patients with schizophrenia; however, most cases were mild to moderate and infrequently lead to discontinuation (5/1090 from all three trials).

This comprehensive review provides an overview of the data from all three 6-week studies (including a pooled analysis) and from an unpublished 52-week, open-label extension study, to inform physicians and facilitate reasonable treatment decisions. In addition, specific issues associated with the use of aripiprazole as an adjunctive therapy in patients with MDD, including possible early treatment effect, appropriate timing of therapy initiation, appropriate dosing and duration of treatment, possible differential effect on depressive subgroups and long-term tolerability, are also discussed.