, Volume 191, Issue 1, pp 27–38

Psychopharmacologic treatment of pediatric major depressive disorder




The role of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) in youth has received much attention in recent years due to concerns of efficacy and safety of the antidepressants for the treatment of MDD in youth.


This review describes the existing published and unpublished literature regarding the efficacy and short-term safety of the antidepressants and decision-making process required for the use of these medications for youth with MDD. In addition, current continuation and maintenance treatments are discussed.


In general, nine depressed youth must be treated with an antidepressant to obtain one clinical response above that achieved with placebo. To date, fluoxetine has showed the most consistent positive treatment effects. Depressed youth had also acutely responded to other antidepressants, but the response to placebo has also been high. Overall, the antidepressants are well tolerated, but 1–3 children and adolescents of 100 taking antidepressants showed onset or worsening of suicidal ideation and, more rarely, suicide attempts.


There is a positive risk–benefit ratio for the use of antidepressants in the acute treatment of depressed youth. First-line antidepressant treatment with—or without—specific types of psychotherapy is indicated for youth with MDD of at least moderate severity. All youth taking antidepressants must be closely monitored for suicidality and medication side effects. Many youth will likely require psychotherapy or additional medication treatments to address comorbid disorders. Treatments to prevent relapses and recurrences require further study.


Major depressive disorder Diagnosis Pharmacotherapy Antidepressant Symptoms Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khrista Boylan
    • 1
  • Soledad Romero
    • 2
  • Boris Birmaher
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural NeurosciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Western Psychiatric Institute and ClinicUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA

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