Update on Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials in the Past Decade for Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder in Child and Adolescent Patients: A Systematic Review

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2018 Dec;28(10):668-675. doi: 10.1089/cap.2017.0174. Epub 2018 Jul 31.


Objectives: Antidepressant treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) has been a topic of continued interest with a number of placebo randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) being published in the past decade. We review the updated literature since the 2007 Bridge meta-analysis, and reassess safety data looking at signals of treatment-emergent suicidality with the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (CSSR-S). Methods: PubMed literature review was performed searching for RCTs published since the 2007 article and supplemented with manual search. Results: Findings from seven trials (five industry sponsored, one NIMH funded, and one other) were included in this systematic review, which showed high medication and placebo response rates, with only fluoxetine and escitalopram treatment reaching statistical significance. Fluoxetine was also shown to prevent relapse of MDD with continued treatment with an odds ratio of 3.2 for prevention of relapse compared with placebo. There were no increases in treatment-emergent suicidality associated with antidepressant medication in any trial measuring suicidality systematically using the CSSR-S. Conclusions: Depressed pediatric patients respond similarly in these trials to antidepressant intervention and placebo, with recent studies showing that newer agents did not clearly demonstrate benefit above placebo. The evidence continues to support fluoxetine and escitalopram as first-line treatment and demonstrated effect to prevent relapse. Use of newer rating scales reveals similar rates of treatment-emergent suicidality in patients on antidepressants as placebo, in contrast to increased suicide signal suggested by past research using adverse events data. Antidepressant treatment is generally safe and well tolerated in this age group.

Keywords: antidepressant; child and adolescent; depression; review; suicidality.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antidepressive Agents / classification
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Child
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Suicide Prevention*


  • Antidepressive Agents