Psychotherapy and psychosomatics 2017 09 1486(5) 283-291 doi 10.1159/000477770
As many patients with unipolar depression do not respond sufficiently to initial antidepressant monotherapy, a dose increase of the current administered antidepressant (dose escalation, high-dose treatment) is frequently carried out as next treatment measure.
We conducted a meta-analysis which included all double-blind randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing a dose increase of antidepressants directly to continuation of standard-dose treatment in unipolar depressive patients who were non- responders to standard-dose pharmacotherapy. A mean change in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) total score was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes were response rates and discontinuation rates due to any reason, inefficacy, and adverse effects. Hedges g and risk ratios were calculated as effect sizes.
Seven double-blind RCTs (8 study arms) representing 1,208 participants were included. Fluoxetine (N [number of studies] = 2, n [number of patients] = 448), sertraline (N = 2, n = 272), paroxetine (N = 2, n = 146), duloxetine (N = 1, n = 255), and maprotiline (N = 1, n = 87) were investigated. Dose escalation was not more efficacious in HAM-D total score reduction than maintaining standard-dose treatment, neither for the pooled antidepressant group (N = 7, n = 999; Hedges g = -0.04, 95% CI: -0.20 to 0.12; p = 0.63) nor the individual antidepressants. No differences could be determined for response rates, all-cause discontinuation, and drop-outs due to inefficacy. Significantly more patients in the dose escalation group dropped out due to adverse effects than in the standard-dose continuation group. The metaregressions indicate no influence of baseline symptom severity or amounts of dose increments on effect sizes.
According to our meta-analytic findings, dose escalation after initial non-response to standard-dose pharmacotherapy cannot be regarded as general evidence-based treatment option in unipolar depression.