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CNS Drugs. 2005;19(2):137-46.

Comparison of the effects of mirtazapine and fluoxetine in severely depressed patients.

Author information

  • 1Institute of Psychiatry, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. versiani@openlink.com.br

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Depression is a major global problem associated with large medical, sociological and economic burdens. Mirtazapine (Remeron, Organon NV, The Netherlands) is an antidepressant with a unique mechanism of action that has similar or superior efficacy to TCAs and SSRIs in moderate-to-severe depression. However, this agent has not yet been tested in patients with severe depression alone.

OBJECTIVE:

To compare the antidepressant efficacy and tolerability of mirtazapine and fluoxetine and their effects on anxiety and quality of life in patients with severe depression (> or = 25 points on the first 17 items of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale [HDRS-17]).

METHODS:

In this double-blind study, 297 severely depressed patients were randomised to receive mirtazapine 15-60 mg/day (n = 147) or fluoxetine 20-40 mg/day (n = 152) for 8 weeks. 294 subjects were actually treated and 292 included in the intent-to-treat population. Symptom severity was measured by the HDRS-17, Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and Clinical Global Impression (CGI) rating scale. Quality of life was self-assessed by patients using the Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire and the Quality of Life, Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire. Adverse events were recorded throughout the study.

RESULTS:

No statistically significant differences were noted between the two groups in change from baseline HDRS-17 score at any time point; both treatments were associated with large (approximately 15 points) decreases by study end. However, more mirtazapine-treated patients tended to exhibit a > or = 50% decrease in HDRS score (significant at day 7; 9.0% vs 0.7%, p = 0.002). Significant differences in favour of mirtazapine were also observed at day 14 for changes in MADRS scores (-10.9 vs -8.5, p = 0.006) and the proportion of patients with > or = 50% decrease in MADRS score (21.4% vs 10.9%, p = 0.031). On the CGI, the proportion of 'much/very much improved' patients tended to be greater with mirtazapine (significant at day 7; 9.7% vs 3.4%, p = 0.032). No significant between-group differences were observed for the majority of quality-of-life measures. However, mirtazapine produced significantly better improvements on 'sleeping assessment 1' (14.9 +/- 5.2 vs 13.7 +/- 5.4, p = 0.028) and 'sleeping assessment 2' (p = 0.013) than fluoxetine. Both agents were generally well tolerated but mirtazapine-treated patients experienced a mean weight gain of 0.8 +/- 2.7 kg compared with a mean decrease in weight of 0.4 +/- 2.1 kg for fluoxetine-treated patients (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS:

Mirtazapine is as effective and well tolerated as fluoxetine in the treatment of patients with severe depression.

PMID:
15697327
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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