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J Fam Pract. 1998 Dec;47(6):446-52.

Depression, health-related quality of life, and medical cost outcomes of receiving recommended levels of antidepressant treatment.

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  • 1Center for Health Outcomes Research, MEDTAP International, Bethesda, MD 20814-4805, USA.



We evaluated depression severity, health-related quality of life (HRQL), and medical cost outcomes of primary care patients receiving recommended and less-than-recommended levels of antidepressant treatment.


We performed a secondary analysis of clinical trial data from primary care clinics in a staff-model managed care organization. The trial included patients with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised (DSM-III-R) criteria for major depression who were starting antidepressant treatment. The primary outcomes measures used were the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), Hopkins Symptom Checklist depression scores, the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) mental and physical component summary scores, and the total outpatient and inpatient medical costs.


Of 358 patients starting antidepressant treatment, 195 (54.5%) received doses recommended by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research for 90 days or more. Mean HDRS score decreased from 14.1 to 8.8 in patients receiving less-than-recommended treatment and decreased from 13.8 to 8.9 in patients with minimum recommended treatment (P = .761). No significant differences in improvement of HRQL outcomes during 6 months were observed between patients receiving recommended or less-than-recommended antidepressant therapy. Mean total medical costs over 6 months for patients taking the recommended levels of antidepressant treatment were $1872 +/- 140 compared with $2622 +/- 413 for patients taking less-than-recommended treatment (P = .032). The differences in total medical costs were attributable to significantly lower nonmental health-related inpatient costs in the recommended antidepressant treatment group ($104 vs $785, P = .004).


Patients receiving minimum recommended levels of antidepressant therapy for 3 months showed improvement in depression severity and HRQL comparable with patients receiving less-than-recommended treatment. Patients receiving minimum recommended treatment had lower total costs and nonmental health-related inpatient costs. Antidepressant treatment in primary care patients may have the greatest impact on the frequency of health care visits and on costs for medical conditions and impairments.

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