Objective: The objective of this double-blind, multi-center clinical study was to demonstrate the non-inferiority of hypericum extract versus sertraline in the treatment of moderate depression.
Methods: A total of 241 patients with a diagnosis of moderate depressive disorder (according to ICD-10 criteria) were randomized with either 50 mg sertraline or 612 mg hypericum extract (hypericum group n = 123; sertraline group n = 118). According to the study protocol, 200 patients were treated for at least 12 weeks ( n = 102 hypericum extract; n = 98 sertraline); 81 patients in the hypericum group and 80 in the sertraline group were treated after week 12 for an additional 12 weeks. Thus, most patients were treated for a period of 6 months. The primary efficacy variable was the 17-item HAMD total score at the end of the first 12-week double-blind treatment period.
Results: After the first 12-week treatment period, the HAMD score decreased from almost identical initial values (22.0 +/- 1.1 for hypericum and 22.1 +/- 1.1 points for sertraline) to 8.3 +/- 5.5 points (hypericum) and 8.1 +/- 5.6 points (sertraline) (mean +/- SD) in the patients treated per-protocol (PP) population. The statistical test for non-inferiority (boundary delta = 3) revealed that hypericum extract is not inferior to sertraline ( P < 0.0001). The mean difference between the treatments was 0.1995 points, with a corresponding one-sided 97.5 % confidence interval (-infinity, 1.3772). In patients who continued treatment in the follow-up phase, the HAMD score at the end of the study was 5.7 +/- 4.8 points (hypericum group) and 7.1 +/- 6.3 points (sertraline group). Comparable improvement was also found for the von Zerssen's Adjective Mood Scale (BfS) and CGI during the first and second 12-week treatment period in both treatment groups. With 68.6 % of patients in the hypericum group and 70.4 % in the sertraline group, the percentage of patients rated as responders did not differ significantly between treatment groups (12 weeks). The adverse events of 12 patients in the hypericum group (9.8 %) and of 16 patients in the sertraline group (13.6 %) were possibly related to study medication. No basic differences in the treatment groups were observed and no interaction with concomitant medication was documented. In most cases , the investigators assessed the tolerability of hypericum extract and sertraline as "good" or "very good."
Conclusions: The results indicate that hypericum extract STW 3 is not inferior to sertraline and that it is a well-tolerated drug for the treatment of moderate depression. These favorable effects were achieved with a once-daily dose of 612 mg of hypericum extract given for up to 24 weeks.