Background: Case reports and open studies have reported beneficial therapeutic effects of adding buspirone to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) in the management of treatment-refractory depression. This is the first placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of this combination.
Method: One hundred nineteen patients (82 women, 37 men) who fulfilled criteria for a major depressive episode according to DSM-IV and who had failed to respond to a minimum of 4 weeks (mean = 211 days) of treatment with citalopram or paroxetine were randomly assigned to 4 weeks of treatment with an SSRI plus buspirone (N = 58) or an SSRI plus placebo (N = 61). In addition, 97 patients participated in an optional open-label poststudy treatment phase with the SSRI plus buspirone for 2 weeks. The primary outcome measure was the score on the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement (CGI-I) scale.
Results: A total of 50.9% of patients in the buspirone group and 46.7% in the placebo group responded after 4 weeks of treatment. The difference in response rate was not statistically significant. No statistically significant differences were found in the frequency of adverse events. At the follow-up of the open SSRI plus buspirone treatment, 69.4% of patients had responded.
Conclusion: Adding buspirone to an SSRI is a safe and well-tolerated drug regimen. This study failed to demonstrate any difference in efficacy between buspirone or placebo augmentation of an SSRI. It could be argued, however, that the study was inconclusive due to the unusually high placebo response.