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World J Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;11(2 Pt 2):300-7. doi: 10.3109/15622970701432528.

Are typical starting doses of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors sub-optimal? A meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-finding studies in major depressive disorder.

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  • 1Depression Clinical and Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


The purpose of this meta-analysis is to examine the relationship between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) starting dose and treatment outcome in major depressive disorder (MDD). Medline/Pubmed, EMBASE, the Cochrane database, as well as a number of online clinical trial registries were searched for double-blind, placebo-controlled, fixed-dose trials comparing different starting doses of SSRIs for MDD. Data from nine trials (n=2340) were combined using a random-effects model. Patients randomized to receive the usual starting dose (10 mg escitalopram; 20 mg fluoxetine, paroxetine, citalopram; 50 mg sertraline and fluvoxamine) were less likely to respond than patients who received higher starting doses (RR=0.9; P=0.04; response rate 50.8 vs. 54.8%). The rate of discontinuation due to adverse events was lower among the usual starting dose group (9.8%) compared to the higher starting dose group (16.5%).Initiating treatment with SSRIs at doses higher than those typically used in clinical trials/settings is associated with higher response rates but also higher rates of discontinuation due to intolerance. Developing treatment strategies allowing clinicians to deliver higher initial SSRI doses while enhancing the tolerability of treatment may represent an alternative approach to improving the efficacy of treatment of MDD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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