Background: The prevalence of asthma has increased in recent years and depression is common in this population. Minimal data are available on the treatment of depressed asthma patients.
Methods: Ninety adults with asthma and current major depressive disorder were randomized to receive citalopram or placebo for 12 weeks. At each visit, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD), Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology - Self-Report, Asthma Control Questionnaire, and Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire were administered, and oral corticosteroid use assessed.
Results: In the evaluable sample (n = 82), the primary outcome, a random regression analysis of HRSD scores, revealed no significant between-group differences. Bonferroni corrected secondary outcomes revealed HRSD scores decreased significantly in both groups with a significantly greater decrease in the citalopram group at week 6. Changes in asthma symptoms were similar between groups. The groups had similar rates of oral corticosteroid use at baseline, but the citalopram group had less corticosteroid use during the study. Changes in asthma symptom severity correlated with changes in depressive symptom severity.
Conclusions: A reduction in depressive symptoms was associated with improvement in asthma. Corticosteroid use, an important measure of severe asthma exacerbations, was lower in the citalopram group. Larger clinical trials in this population are warranted.