Such a prevalent disease as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), associated with prominent impairment in physical and social functioning, implies as well an increased morbidity and mortality. Long-term treatments are required due to the frequent occurrence of relapses. Patient compliance is a core factor in both acute and continuation treatment, closely related to tolerability issues. We have partially reviewed the literature published on PubMed since 2004 which assess the relative antidepressant efficacy of escitalopram and comparator antidepressants in adult patients who met DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD). Clinically important differences exist between commonly prescribed antidepressants. These analyses are in favor of a superior efficacy and tolerability of long-term escitalopram treatment (10 to 20mg/day) compared with active controls, including selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (paroxetine, citalopram, bupropion, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, sertraline), serotonin/noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) (venlafaxine, milnacipran and duloxetine) and noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NaSSAs) (mirtazapine). Cipriani et al. (2009) have performed a network meta-analysis of 12 new generation antidepressants. They have shown that clinically important differences exist between commonly prescribed antidepressants for both efficacy and acceptability in favor of escitalopram and sertraline in acute treatment, defined as 8-week treatment. Kasper et al. (2009) conducted a post-hoc pooled analysis of data from two 6-month randomized controlled trials that revealed superior efficacy and tolerability of escitalopram when compared with paroxetine. The pooled analysis of four randomized, double-blind, active comparator, 6-month trials in MDD, by Wade et al. (2009), showed that short-term outcomes may predict long-term treatment compliance and outcomes. A higher probability of achieving remission was associated with responding after 8 weeks and with completing 6 months of treatment. Furthermore, Week 24 complete remission (MADRS≤5) was significantly (P<0,01) higher for escitalopram (51.7%) than for the pooled comparators (45.6%). And after 6 months, fewer patients discontinued treatment with escitalopram (15.9%) than with the pooled comparators (23.9%) (P<0.001). This fragmentary review of the literature shows that it is necessary to adopt a stringent definition of remission in depression, especially in clinical trials; a MADRS total score less or equal to 10 to define remission, a MADRS total score less or equal to 5 to define complete remission, and moreover no MADRS single item greater than 1 to define symptom-free remission. In all these meta-analyses, the superiority of escitalopram compared with other antidepressants was confirmed for both acute and long-term treatment of MDD, especially in harshly depressed patients.
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