A feasibility study of antidepressant drug therapy in depressed elderly patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2001 May;16(5):451-4. doi: 10.1002/gps.461.


Objectives: To examine the acceptability of fluoxetine in elderly depressed patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Setting: A university teaching hospital.

Method: Single-blinded (open) study. One hundred and thirty-seven outpatients (69 male) with symptomatic irreversible, moderate to severe COPD were recruited. Major depression was diagnosed using the Geriatric Mental State Schedule. Quality of life was assessed by the Breathing Problems Questionnaire, physical disability by the Manchester Respiratory Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire and severity of depression using the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale. Exclusion criteria were: use of oral steroids within 6 weeks, acute or chronic confusion, known cancer and known psychosis.

Results: Fifty-seven patients (42%) (25 males) with a mean age of 72 years (range 60-89 years) were depressed. Fourteen (six male) agreed to undergo therapy with fluoxetine 20 mg/day for 6 months, while 36 (72%) refused antidepressant drug therapy. Only seven subjects completed the trial; of these, four (57%) responded to fluoxetine therapy. Five subjects withdrew because of side-effects. Twenty-two of those who refused treatment (61%) agreed to be interviewed, and of these 19 (86%) were still depressed.

Conclusion: Patient acceptance of fluoxetine was poor. The reasons for refusing treatment varied but were largely due to misapprehension by the patient. Untreated depression became chronic. Offering antidepressants to COPD patients with depression is not an effective strategy. Why this might be so is discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Fluoxetine