Adequacy and duration of antidepressant treatment in primary care

Med Care. 1992 Jan;30(1):67-76. doi: 10.1097/00005650-199201000-00007.


Among a sample of 119 distressed high-utilizers of primary care, 45% of patients evaluated by a psychiatrist as needing antidepressant treatment had been treated in the year before the examination. However, only 11% of the patients needing antidepressants had received adequate dosage and duration of pharmacotherapy. In the year following the intervention, study patients whose physicians were advised regarding treatment during a psychiatric consultation were more likely to receive antidepressant medications (52.7%) relative to a randomized control group (36.1%). However, the intervention did not significantly increase the provision of adequate antidepressant therapy (37.1% vs 27.9%). Among study patients using antidepressants, patient characteristics did not differentiate patients who received adequate dosage and duration of antidepressant medications from those who did not. Analysis of data on the duration of antidepressant therapy for all health maintenance organization enrollees initiating use of antidepressants showed that only 20% of patients who had been given prescriptions for first-generation antidepressants (amitriptyline, imipramine, or doxepin) filled four or more prescriptions in the following six months, compared to 34% of patients who had prescriptions for newer antidepressants (nortriptyline, desipramine, trazodone and fluoxetine). Experimental research evaluating whether these newer medications (with more favorable side effect profiles) improve adherence, and thereby patient outcome, is needed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Drug Utilization / standards*
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Recurrence
  • Washington


  • Antidepressive Agents