Treating SSRI-Resistant Depression

New study to be published in Biological Psychiatry

Philadelphia, PA, March 25, 2008 – When your antidepressant medication does not work, should you switch to a different medication from the same class or should you try an antidepressant medication that has a different mechanism of action? This is the question asked by researchers in a new report scheduled for publication in Biological Psychiatry on April 1st.
Papakostas and colleagues compared two strategies for treating symptoms of major depressive disorder that do not respond to treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant: either switching to a second SSRI or to a non-SSRI antidepressant. Some common SSRI antidepressants are fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa) and sertraline (Zoloft), while examples of a few common non-SSRI antidepressants are venlafaxine (Effexor) and buproprion (Wellbutrin, Zyban). The authors combined 4 studies comparing these two types of treatment strategies and performed a meta-analysis on the pooled data.


Dr. George I. Papakostas, corresponding author on this project, explains the results: “Switching from a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor to a drug with a different mechanism of action was found to be slightly more effective and slightly less-well tolerated than switching to a non-SSRI drug.” Looking at the findings from a clinical perspective, the advantage in effectiveness means that 22 depressed people would need to be switched to treatment with a non-SSRI for one additional person to obtain relief from their symptoms.


John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, adds that this result “may be related to the fact that while somewhat different, the medications evaluated in this report all acted on the monoamine systems of the brain.” Because of the particular design of this study, the authors explain that “subsequent studies examining whether differences in efficacy between these two treatments exist for specific subpopulations, symptoms, or symptom clusters are warranted.” Dr. Krystal concludes that while this advantage could be important, “there continues to be a pressing need to introduce new antidepressant medications that target novel brain mechanisms.”


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Notes to Editors:
The article is “Treatment of SSRI-Resistant Depression: A Meta-Analysis Comparing Within- Versus Across-Class Switches” by George I. Papakostas, Maurizio Fava and Michael E. Thase. Drs. Papakostas and Fava are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Thase is affiliated with both the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 63, Issue 7 (April 1, 2008), published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Jayne M. Dawkins at (215) 239-3674 or ja.dawkins@elsevier.com to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.

About Biological Psychiatry
This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.

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