Treatment strategies in patients with major depression not responding to first-line sertraline treatment
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Rationale: A large proportion of patients with major depression do not respond sufficiently to any first-line treatment. Objectives: The aim of this study was to compare a strategy of sertraline dose increase with a strategy of adding mianserin in patients with major depression insufficiently responding to 6 weeks of open treatment with sertraline, controlling for the effect of an extended duration of treatment. Methods: One thousand six hundred and twenty-nine patients, 18–65 years of age, with major depression scoring at least 18 on the 17-item Hamilton depression scale (HDS) were treated openly with 50 mg/day sertraline, and patients who after 4 weeks had not responded (achieving at least a 50% reduction in score on the HDS) were treated with 100 mg/day sertraline for an additional 2-week period. The patients who had still not responded were then randomised to double-blind treatment for an additional 5 weeks with either 100 mg/day sertraline plus placebo, 200 mg/day sertraline plus placebo or 100 mg/day sertraline plus 30 mg/day mianserin. Results: After 6 weeks of open treatment, 60% had responded and 22% had dropped out, leaving 295 non-responding patients (18%) for randomisation. In the intention-to-treat-analysis, continuing the treatment with 100 mg/day sertraline resulted in response in 70% of the non-responders, similar to the response rate (67%) obtained in the patients who had mianserin added. However, increasing the sertraline dose to 200 mg/day resulted in a lower response rate at 56% (P<0.05). Similar results were seen in the completers. A substantial increase in the accumulated response rate from week 6 to week 8 was seen. There was no influence of baseline variables, including the presence of melancholic features on the overall post-randomisation response rate. Conclusion: After 6 weeks of insufficient antidepressant treatment with 50–100 mg/day sertraline, a continued treatment with 100 mg/day sertraline can be considered until at least week 8 before considering changing strategy, unless the condition deteriorates.
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