Patients with severe depression may benefit from buspirone augmentation of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: results from a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind, placebo wash-in study

J Clin Psychiatry. 2001 Jun;62(6):448-52. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v62n0608.


Background: Although case reports and open studies have reported augmentation with buspirone to be beneficial in the treatment of depression refractory to treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a recently published randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study failed to show superiority of buspirone over placebo in this respect.

Method: One hundred two outpatients who fulfilled DSM-IV criteria for a major depressive episode and who had failed to respond to a minimum of 6 weeks of treatment with either fluoxetine or citalopram were included in this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. After a single-blind placebo wash-in period of 2 weeks while continuing their SSRI, the patients were randomly assigned to adjunctive treatment with either buspirone, 10 to 30 mg b.i.d., or placebo for 6 weeks. Patients were assessed using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), the Clinical Global Impressions scale (CGI), and visual analogue scales.

Results: After the first week of double-blind treatment, there was a significantly greater reduction in MADRS score (p = .034) in the buspirone group as compared with placebo. At endpoint, there was no significant difference between treatment groups as a whole, although patients with initially high MADRS scores (> 30) showed a significantly greater reduction in MADRS score (p = .026) in the buspirone group as compared with placebo.

Conclusion: Patients with severe depressive symptoms may benefit from augmentation with buspirone. It cannot be excluded that augmentation with buspirone may speed up the antidepressive response of patients refractory to treatment with fluoxetine or citalopram.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Buspirone / adverse effects
  • Buspirone / therapeutic use*
  • Citalopram / adverse effects
  • Citalopram / therapeutic use
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Fluoxetine / adverse effects
  • Fluoxetine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Placebos
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / adverse effects
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Fluoxetine
  • Citalopram
  • Buspirone