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Am J Manag Care. 2006 Aug;12(8):453-61.

Frequency of follow-up care for adult and pediatric patients during initiation of antidepressant therapy.

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Medco Health Solutions Inc, 100 Parsons Pond Drive, Mail Stop E2-21, Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417, USA.



To measure the timing and frequency of follow-up care during the initiation phase of antidepressant therapy, and to compare the typical pattern of care with current product guidelines.


Retrospective cohort study.


The study included 84514 adult and pediatric patients who started a new course of antidepressant therapy for any indication between July 2001 and September 2003. Patients were members of a large managed care organization in the northeastern United States. Ambulatory visits during the first 12 weeks of treatment were identified using medical claims data. Outcome measures were time to first follow-up visit, frequency of follow-up visits, and percentage of patients receiving recommended levels of care.


During the first 4 weeks of treatment with antidepressants, only 55.0% of patients saw a healthcare provider for any purpose, and only 17.7% saw a provider for mental healthcare. Ambulatory visit rates during the first 4, 8, and 12 weeks were significantly lower than the minimum levels recommended in product labeling (P <.0001). Only 14.9% of patients received the Food and Drug Administration-recommended level of follow-up care during the first 4 weeks, 18.1% at 8 weeks, and 22.6% at 12 weeks.


Adults and children who begin a new course of antidepressant therapy tend to receive far less monitoring than is recommended in current product labeling. Given safety concerns during the initiation phase, earlier and more frequent follow-up care appears desirable. Further research is needed to identify the most cost-effective schedule of care.

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