Research And Journals

A Calculator to Estimate the Likelihood of Antidepressant Response

Presented by a new report in Biological Psychiatry

Philadelphia July 1, 2013

As in any other field of medicine, when a depressed person visits a psychiatrist for treatment of depression, they like to be informed of the odds that they will respond to the medication they are prescribed. Unfortunately, there has been no precise way to predict antidepressant response in individual patients.

It would be very nice to have an equation that would enable doctors to predict the likelihood that individual patients would respond to specific treatments. Accurate predictions are likely to be challenging. The ability to accurately predict the likelihood of antidepressant response for individual patients could be an important step in developing individualized treatment plans.

The effectiveness of antidepressant medications varies tremendously across patients and the overall effectiveness of current medications is lower than previously expected. For example, the largest antidepressant trial ever conducted - the NIMH STAR*D study - provided somewhat discouraging news about the effectiveness of antidepressants. Only 30% of patients responded to their initial antidepressant and after one year and up to four different treatments, 30% of patients did not achieve remission.

In this issue of Biological Psychiatry, Dr. Roy Perlis at Massachusetts General Hospital has taken an important step toward this objective.

He gathered data collected from the STAR*D study and used multiple prediction models to identify statistical patterns. Using the best-performing model, he then generated an online risk calculator and visualization tool that provides a graphical estimate of an individuals’ risk for treatment resistance.

“To address the needs of individual depressed patients, we will need to find ways to design psychiatric treatments to respond to the differences among patients with depression. The ‘depression calculator’ that emerges from the STAR*D trial is one step forward in this effort,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “To do better than this, we will need to include biomarkers that may serve the function that blood tests and blood pressure measurements serve in other areas of medicine.”

Perlis agrees, commenting that “There has been great emphasis on the discovery of biomarkers to help predict clinical outcomes. No doubt this effort will succeed eventually. On the other hand, it's entirely possible that clinical features can help get us part of the way there - that clinical features can help make useful predictions.”

“The analogy I would draw is the Framingham score for predicting cardiovascular risk. It’s far from perfect, and there's plenty to criticize - but it has at least spurred efforts to use prediction in a clinical setting. It has also provided a platform to which biomarkers can be added, as they are identified,” he added.

In the meantime, the whole point of providing a clinical calculator online is to allow clinicians to try it out - to see what could be done, if the will and the resources were there.

The article is “A Clinical Risk Stratification Tool for Predicting Treatment Resistance in Major Depressive Disorder” by Roy H. Perlis (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.12.007). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 74, Issue 1 (July 1, 2013), published by Elsevier.

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Notes for editors
Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Rhiannon Bugno at +1 214 648 0880 or Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Dr. Roy Perlis at +1 617 726 7426 or

The authors’ affiliations, and disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

John H. Krystal, M.D., is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and a research psychiatrist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available here.

About Biological Psychiatry

Biological Psychiatry
is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, whose purpose is to promote excellence in scientific research and education in fields that investigate the nature, causes, mechanisms and treatments of disorders of thought, emotion, or behavior. In accord with this mission, this peer-reviewed, rapid-publication, international journal publishes both basic and clinical contributions from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major psychiatric disorders.

The journal publishes novel results of original research which represent an important new lead or significant impact on the field, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Reviews and commentaries that focus on topics of current research and interest are also encouraged.

Biological Psychiatry
is one of the most selective and highly cited journals in the field of
psychiatric neuroscience. It is ranked 4th out of 135 Psychiatry titles and 13th out of 251 Neurosciences titles in the Journal Citations Reports® published by Thomson Reuters. The 2012 Impact Factor score for Biological Psychiatry is 9.247.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 33,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries.

Media contact
Rhiannon Bugno
Biological Psychiatry Editorial Office
+1 214 648 0880