Background: No study has gathered evidence from all randomized clinical trials (RCTs) with anti-inflammatory drugs measuring antidepressant effects including a detailed assessment of side-effects and bias.
Methods: We performed a systematic review identifying RCTs published prior to January 1, 2018, studying antidepressant treatment effects and side-effects of pharmacological anti-inflammatory intervention in adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) or depressive symptoms. Outcomes were depression scores after treatment, remission, response, and side-effects. Pooled standard mean differences (SMD) and risk ratios (RR) including 95% confidence intervals (95%-CI) were calculated.
Results: We identified 36 RCTs, whereof 13 investigated NSAIDs (N = 4214), 9 cytokine inhibitors (N = 3345), seven statins (N = 1576), 3 minocycline (N = 151), 2 pioglitazone (N = 77), and 2 glucocorticoids (N = 59). Anti-inflammatory agents improved depressive symptoms compared to placebo as add-on in patients with MDD (SMD = -0.64; 95%-CI = -0.88, -0.40; I2 = 51%; N = 597) and as monotherapy (SMD = -0.41; 95%-CI = -0.60, -0.22; I2 = 93%, N = 8825). Anti-inflammatory add-on improved response (RR = 1.76; 95%-CI = 1.44-2.16; I2 = 16%; N = 341) and remission (RR = 2.14; 95%-CI = 1.03-4.48; I2 = 57%; N = 270). We found a trend toward an increased risk for infections, and all studies showed high risk of bias.
Conclusion: Anti-inflammatory agents improved antidepressant treatment effects. Future RCTs need to include longer follow-up, identify optimal doses and subgroups of patients that can benefit from anti-inflammatory intervention.
Keywords: NSAIDs; anti-inflammatory treatment; cytokine inhibitors; depression; depressive symptoms; glucocorticoids; inflammation; major depressive disorder; minocycline; personalized medicine; pioglitazone; psychoneuroimmunology; statins.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.