Combined treatment with atypical antipsychotics and antidepressants in treatment-resistant depression: preclinical and clinical efficacy

Pharmacol Rep. 2013;65(6):1535-44. doi: 10.1016/s1734-1140(13)71515-9.


Several clinical reports have documented a beneficial effect of adding atypical antipsychotic drugs to ongoing treatments with antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, in ameliorating drug-resistant depression. The aim of this paper was to summarize some preclinical evidence describing the mechanism responsible for the therapeutic action of combined treatment with antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics and also some clinical data supporting the efficacy and safety of the augmentation strategy for improving antidepressant-resistant depression using atypical antipsychotics. This analysis is based on five microdialysis studies and nine behavioral studies assessing the impact of combined atypical antipsychotic and antidepressant treatments on extracellular levels of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline in the prefrontal cortex of freely moving rats and on antidepressant-induced effects, respectively. In addition, clinical data demonstrating the efficacy and safety of augmentation strategies for treatment-resistant depression using atypical antipsychotics were included. Combined treatment of rats with all studied atypical antipsychotics (olanzapine, risperidone, clozapine and quetiapine) and antidepressants (citalopram, fluoxetine and fluvoxamine) increased the extracellular level of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex compared to a respective drug given alone; in addition, a combination of olanzapine or quetiapine plus fluoxetine or fluvoxamine increased the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline. Moreover, atypical antipsychotics administered in a low dose enhanced the antidepressant-like activity of antidepressants, with (among other mechanisms) the serotonin 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A and adrenergic α2 receptors likely playing an important role in their action. The results support the conclusion that atypical antipsychotics may be effective as adjunctive therapy in treatment-resistant depression; however, their adverse effect profile may be unfavorable in some patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Drug Resistance / drug effects*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / methods
  • Humans


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents