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Lack of efficacy of fluoxetine in recurrent brief depression and suicidal attempts.

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Department of Psychiatry, St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, England.


Recurrent brief depression (RBD) fulfills DSM-III-R symptom criteria for major depression but the episodes are of shorter duration than the 2 weeks required by DSM-III-R. The clinical importance of the disorder has been observed in prophylactic studies of suicidal behavior. The possibility that antidepressants with selective action on the reuptake of serotonin might be effective in preventing recurrences of brief depression has been investigated. Fluoxetine in a dose of 120 mg a week, administered biweekly, had no effect on the recurrence rate, which was maintained at approximately the same rate on fluoxetine (1 every 18.7 days) as with placebo (1 every 17.6 days). In a group of patients with two or more prior episodes of suicidal behavior, there were 18 attempted suicides in the 54 patients treated with fluoxetine and the same number in the 53 patients treated with placebo. Fluoxetine neither raised nor lowered the suicide attempt rate as compared with placebo, providing no evidence to support the drug's role in either suicide provocation or prevention. Since fluoxetine is clearly effective with recurrent major depression, it would appear that recurrent brief depression has a different pharmacology.

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