A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Sequential Parallel Comparison Design Trial of Adjunctive Riluzole for Treatment-Resistant Major Depressive Disorder

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Dec;42(13):2567-2574. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.106. Epub 2017 May 29.


Riluzole is a glutamate-modulating agent with neuroprotective properties approved for use in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The efficacy and safety of riluzole vs placebo as an adjunct to antidepressant medication in outpatients with major depressive disorder (MDD) was examined in a 3-site, 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, fixed-dose trial using a sequential parallel comparison design comprised of two phases of 4 weeks. Patients with MDD in a current major depressive episode (N=104) with an inadequate response to either a prospective or a historical trial of an antidepressant medication were randomized in a 2 : 3 : 3 ratio to the treatment sequences of riluzole/riluzole, placebo/placebo, and placebo/riluzole, respectively. The primary outcome was change in depression severity, as assessed by the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). Secondary efficacy outcomes included the response rate, defined as at least a 50% improvement in MADRS, Clinical Global Impressions severity and improvement subscales, and patient-reported measures of depression and cognitive function. Eighty-five patients completed the randomized treatment phases. Treatment groups did not differ in mean change in MADRS scores, response rate, or in any secondary efficacy outcomes. Riluzole was generally well tolerated, with a side effect profile consistent with its clinical use. In conclusion, a fixed dose of riluzole (100 mg/day) did not show adjunctive antidepressant efficacy compared to placebo. The trial was adequately powered to detect a moderate riluzole effect, and the risk for exaggerated placebo responses was mitigated. The lack of efficacy suggests that mechanisms underlying riluzole's neuroprotective effects are insufficient for clinical response in treatment-resistant depression.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroprotective Agents / adverse effects
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Riluzole / adverse effects
  • Riluzole / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Riluzole