Background: Despite high rates of relapse and recurrence, few primary care patients with recurrent or chronic depression are receiving continuation and maintenance-phase treatment. We hypothesized that a relapse prevention intervention would improve adherence to antidepressant medication and improve depression outcomes in high-risk patients compared with usual primary care.
Methods: Three hundred eighty-six patients with recurrent major depression or dysthymia who had largely recovered after 8 weeks of antidepressant treatment by their primary care physicians were randomized to a relapse prevention program (n = 194) or usual primary care (n = 192). Patients in the intervention group received 2 primary care visits with a depression specialist and 3 telephone visits over a 1-year period aimed at enhancing adherence to antidepressant medication, recognition of prodromal symptoms, monitoring of symptoms, and development of a written relapse prevention plan. Follow-up assessments were completed at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months by a telephone survey team blinded to randomization status.
Results: Those in the intervention group had significantly greater adherence to adequate dosage of antidepressant medication for 90 days or more within the first and second 6-month periods and were significantly more likely to refill medication prescriptions during the 12-month follow-up compared with usual care controls. Intervention patients had significantly fewer depressive symptoms, but not fewer episodes of relapse/recurrence over the 12-month follow-up period.
Conclusions: A relapse prevention program targeted to primary care patients with a high risk of relapse/recurrence who had largely recovered after antidepressant treatment significantly improved antidepressant adherence and depressive symptom outcomes.