Two antidepressant medication combinations were compared with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor monotherapy to determine whether either combination produced a higher remission rate in first-step acute-phase (12 weeks) and long-term (7 months) treatment.
The single-blind, prospective, randomized trial enrolled 665 outpatients at six primary and nine psychiatric care sites. Participants had at least moderately severe nonpsychotic chronic and/or recurrent major depressive disorder. Escitalopram (up to 20 mg/day) plus placebo, sustained-release bupropion (up to 400 mg/day) plus escitalopram (up to 20 mg/day), or extended-release venlafaxine (up to 300 mg/day) plus mirtazapine (up to 45 mg/day) was delivered (1:1:1 ratio) by using measurement-based care. The primary outcome was remission, defined as ratings of less than 8 and less than 6 on the last two consecutive applications of the 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology—Self-Report. Secondary outcomes included side effect burden, adverse events, quality of life, functioning, and attrition.
Remission and response rates and most secondary outcomes were not different among treatment groups at 12 weeks. The remission rates were 38.8% for escitalopram-placebo, 38.9% for bupropion-escitalopram, and 37.7% for venlafax-ine-mirtazapine, and the response rates were 51.6%–52.4%. The mean number of worsening adverse events was higher for venlafaxine-mirtazapine (5.7) than for escitalopram-placebo (4.7). At 7 months, remission rates (41.8%–46.6%), response rates (57.4%–59.4%), and most secondary outcomes were not significantly different.
Neither medication combination outperformed monotherapy. The combination of extended-release venlafaxine plus mirtazapine may have a greater risk of adverse events.(Reprinted with permission from The American Journal of Psychiatry 2011;168:689–701)