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Annu Rev Med. 1994;45:447-57.

Antidepressants in long-term treatment.

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


One of the most important recent developments in the management of depression is the recognition of the need for long-term treatment. Treatment of an episode of depression must continue after apparent response in order to consolidate response and prevent relapse. A continuation treatment period of at least four months after response of the acute episode is required in all patients with depression. Most depression is recurrent, and prophylactic treatment with antidepressants reduces the risk of new episodes. This treatment needs to be continued over very long periods, because the risk of new episodes does not appear to diminish with time. In selecting an antidepressant for long-term treatment efficacy, safety and tolerability in the long term should be taken into account since not all antidepressants have been adequately tested, and some do not appear to be effective. The most thoroughly tested antidepressants are the tricyclic imipramine and the new selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

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