Context: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressant, yet it is not known whether one SSRI is more effective than another.
Objective: To compare the effectiveness of 3 SSRIs (paroxetine, fluoxetine, and sertraline) in depressed primary care patients.
Design: Open-label, randomized, intention-to-treat trial, with patient enrollment occurring in April-November 1999.
Setting: Thirty-seven clinics in 2 US primary care research networks.
Patients: A total of 573 depressed adult patients for whom their primary care physician thought that antidepressant therapy was warranted and who completed a baseline interview.
Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to receive paroxetine (n = 189), fluoxetine (n = 193), or sertraline (n = 191) for 9 months. Primary care physicians were allowed to switch patients to a different SSRI or non-SSRI antidepressant if they did not adequately respond to or tolerate the initial SSRI.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was change in the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) Mental Component Summary score (range, 0-100), compared across treatment groups at 1, 3, 6, and 9 months. Secondary outcomes included other depression and psychological measures, multiple measures of social and work functioning, and other domains of health-related quality of life, such as physical functioning, concentration and memory, vitality, bodily pain, sleep, and sexual functioning.
Results: Follow-up interviews were successfully completed in 94% of patients at 1 month, 87% at 3 months, 84% at 6 months, and 79% at 9 months. Responses to the 3 SSRIs were comparable on all measures and at all time points. The mean change in the SF-36 Mental Component Summary score at 9 months was + 15.8 in the paroxetine group, + 15.1 in the fluoxetine group, and + 17.4 in the sertraline group. The drugs were also associated with similar incidences of adverse effects and discontinuation rates.
Conclusions: The SSRI antidepressants paroxetine, fluoxetine, and sertraline were similar in effectiveness for depressive symptoms as well as multiple domains of health-related quality of life over the entire 9 months of this trial.