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J Clin Psychiatry. 2012 Apr;73(4):518-25. doi: 10.4088/JCP.10m06760. Epub 2011 Dec 27.

Can people with nonsevere major depression benefit from antidepressant medication?

Author information

1
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA. jstewar4@bidmc.harvard.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Several meta- or mega-analyses suggest antidepressant medications should be given only to severely depressed patients. In our experience, mild depression benefits from medication. We reanalyzed 1 clinic's randomized placebo-controlled antidepressant studies, limiting analyses to patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) without severe illness, to determine whether nonsevere depression responds to antidepressant medication.

DATA SOURCES:

Archives of the Depression Evaluation Service outpatient clinic of the New York State Psychiatric Institute were searched for randomized, placebo-controlled antidepressant studies that were conducted between 1977 and 2009 and included patients having MDD and pretreatment Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) scores < 23.

STUDY SELECTION:

Six placebo-controlled studies were found, including 8 active treatment arms and 1,440 patients. 825 patients were randomized and had MDD and an HDRS score < 23. DSM-III, DSM-III-R, or DSM-IV diagnostic criteria contemporary to each study were employed.

DATA EXTRACTION:

Treatments were compared within study and via a patient-level meta-analysis using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) of HDRS end point scores adjusted for pretreatment score. The number needed to treat (NNT) was calculated from remission rates (HDRS end point score ≤ 7), which were compared by χ². Effect sizes were calculated from change in HDRS scores. Secondary analyses investigated the effect of chronicity and atypical features on treatment response.

DATA SYNTHESIS:

Three of 6 studies showed significant (P < .001) treatment effects by ANCOVA, and 4 of 6 studies showed significant (P < .04) differences in remission. The NNT ranged from 3 to 8. Effect sizes ranged from -0.04 to 0.8, with 4 of 8 greater than 0.4. The patient-level meta-analysis confirmed these results; neither chronicity nor atypical features significantly affected outcome. Secondary analyses utilizing global ratings and self-report mimicked the main findings.

CONCLUSIONS:

Several studies demonstrated significant antidepressant efficacy for patients having nonsevere MDD. Efficacy was not trivial, as NNT ranged from 3 to 8, a range accepted by researchers as sufficiently robust to recommend treatment. These findings suggest mild-moderate MDD can benefit from antidepressants, contrary to findings by several other meta- or mega-analyses.

PMID:
22226407
DOI:
10.4088/JCP.10m06760
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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