Fatigue and low energy are cardinal symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) that have an impact on work functioning. Antidepressants with noradrenergic activity have been hypothesized to improve symptoms of fatigue and low energy. We examined the impact of these symptoms on work functioning in patients with MDD treated with the serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor, desvenlafaxine. A secondary analysis was carried out from a study of employed adult outpatients (n=35) with MDD and subjective cognitive complaints treated with desvenlafaxine 50-100 mg/day for 8 weeks. Multiple regression analyses modeled improvement in work functioning measures (Lam Employment Absence and Productivity Scale, Health and Work Performance Questionnaire, Sheehan Disability Scale) with measures of fatigue (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Fatigue scale and 20-item Hopkins Symptom Check List Energy scale). Patients showed a significant improvement in Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale scores as well as in fatigue and work functioning measures following treatment. Fatigue measures were significantly associated with improvement in some (Lam Employment Absence and Productivity Scale, Sheehan Disability Scale), but not all (Health and Work Performance Questionnaire) work functioning measures, independent of improvement in overall depressive symptoms. The limitations of this study include the small sample size and the lack of a placebo or a comparison group. Fatigue and low energy are important symptoms that are associated with occupational impairment in MDD. Treatments that improve these symptoms are likely to improve work functioning.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01468610.