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Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2016 Apr;6(2):99-144. doi: 10.1177/2045125316629071. Epub 2016 Feb 18.

Bupropion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of effectiveness as an antidepressant.

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Cognition, Schizophrenia and Imaging Laboratory, Department of Psychosis Studies, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College, London, UK.
Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College, London, UK.
Consultant Psychiatrist, Green Parks House, Princess Royal University Hospital, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, London BR6 8NY, UK.


Bupropion has been used as an antidepressant for over 20 years, though its licence for such use varies and it is typically a third- or fourth-line agent. It has a unique pharmacology, inhibiting the reuptake of noradrenaline and dopamine, potentially providing pharmacological augmentation to more common antidepressants such as selective serotonergic reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This systematic review and meta-analysis identified 51 studies, dividing into four categories: bupropion as a sole antidepressant, bupropion coprescribed with another antidepressant, bupropion in 'other' populations (e.g. bipolar depression, elderly populations) and primary evaluation of side effects. Methodologically more robust trials support the superiority of bupropion over placebo, and most head-to-head antidepressant trials showed an equivalent effectiveness, though some of these are hindered by a lack of a placebo arm. Most work on the coprescribing of bupropion with another antidepressant supports an additional effect, though many are open-label trials. Several large multi-medication trials, most notably STAR*D, also support a therapeutic role for bupropion; in general, it demonstrated similar effectiveness to other medications, though this literature highlights the generally low response rates in refractory cohorts. Effectiveness has been shown in 'other' populations, though there is an overall dearth of research. Bupropion is generally well tolerated, it has very low rates of sexual dysfunction, and is more likely to cause weight loss than gain. Our findings support the use of bupropion as a sole or coprescribed antidepressant, particularly if weight gain or sexual dysfunction are, or are likely to be, significant problems. However there are notable gaps in the literature, including less information on treatment naïve and first presentation depression, particularly when one considers the ever-reducing rates of response in more refractory illness. There are some data to support bupropion targeting specific symptoms, but insufficient information to reliably inform such prescribing, and it remains uncertain whether bupropion pharmacodynamically truly augments other drugs.


antidepressant; bupropion; efficacy

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