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Comparative Study
, 45 (5), 476-81

Strategies for Managing Depression Refractory to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Treatment: A Survey of Clinicians

Comparative Study

Strategies for Managing Depression Refractory to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Treatment: A Survey of Clinicians

D Mischoulon et al. Can J Psychiatry.


Objective: To examine treatment practices in cases where selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are ineffective.

Methods: We surveyed 801 clinicians (including 630 psychiatrists) attending the Massachusetts General Hospital's annual psychopharmacology review course. Clinicians were presented with a vignette about a patient with depression who had responded partially to an SSRI and were asked to choose among various strategies available to manage this patient.

Results: Of those surveyed, 466 clinicians had been in practice a mean of 16.6 years (SD 10.7). Not all clinicians chose to answer every question. Among 455 respondents, 84% (n = 382) chose to increase the dose of the SSRI, 10% (n = 47) chose augmentation or combination, and 7% (n = 31) opted for switching agents. When asked to switch to another agent, 448 responded, of whom 52% (n = 235) chose a newer antidepressant, 34% (n = 152) chose another SSRI, 10% (n = 44) chose a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA), 2% (n = 8) chose a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), 1% (n = 5) chose a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), and 1% (n = 4) chose an undefined "other" agent. Among 445 respondents, bupropion was the most widely chosen augmenting agent (30%, n = 134), followed by lithium (22%, n = 98). West coast and Canadian clinicians preferred to switch to another SSRI rather than to a newer antidepressant. Canadian clinicians preferred lithium to bupropion as their first-choice augmenting agent, as did clinicians from academic settings. Clinicians from community, individual practice, or group settings favoured bupropion. More experienced clinicians preferred bupropion as a first-choice augmenter, whereas less experienced ones showed a slight preference for lithium. Canadian clinicians were more likely to use MAOIs as second-line agents.

Conclusions: Clinicians in this sample often followed strategies different from those recommended in the literature. Bupropion may have an important role in augmentating treatment with SSRIs.

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