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Neuropsychopharmacology. 1998 Jun;18(6):444-55.

Treatment of refractory depression with high-dose thyroxine.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Klinikum Benjamin Franklin, Free University of Berlin, Germany.


In an open clinical trial we investigated whether addition of supraphysiological doses of thyroxine (T4) to conventional antidepressant drugs has an antidepressant effect in therapy-resistant depressed patients. Seventeen severely ill, therapy-resistant, euthyroid patients with major depression (12 bipolar, five unipolar) were studied. The patients had been depressed for a mean of 11.5 +/- 13.8 months, despite treatment with antidepressants and, in most cases, augmentation with lithium, carbamazepine, and neuroleptics. Thyroxine was added to their antidepressant medication, and the doses were increased to a mean of 482 +/- 72 micrograms/day. The patients' scores on the Hamilton rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) declined from 26.6 +/- 4.7 prior to the addition of T4 to 11.6 +/- 6.8 at the end of week 8. Eight patients fulfilled the criteria for full remission (a 50% reduction in HRSD score and a final score of < or = 9) within 8 weeks and two others fully remitted within 12 weeks. Seven patients did not remit. The 10 remitted patients were maintained on high-dose T4 and followed up for a mean of 27.2 +/- 22.0 months. Seven of these 10 remitted patients had an excellent outcome, two had milder and shorter episodes during T4 augmentation treatment, and one failed to profit from T4 treatment during the follow-up period. Side effects were surprisingly mild, and no complications were observed at all. In conclusion, augmentation of conventional antidepressants with high-dose T4 proved to have excellent antidepressant effects in approximately 50% of severely therapy-resistant depressed patients.

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