Use of Pattern Analysis to Predict Differential Relapse of Remitted Patients With Major Depression During 1 Year of Treatment With Fluoxetine or Placebo

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Abstract

Background

Delayed and persistent ("true drug") improvement characterizes the response to antidepressant medication. Early or nonpersistent ("placebo") benefit is typical of a placebo response. The prediction was that patients with a true drug response would sustain their benefit best if they continued to receive the drug and that patients with a placebo response would have an equivalent prognosis whether they continued to receive the drug or were switched to placebo.

Methods

Patients with major depression who met the study's response criteria (a modified Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score Results

Patients with a true drug response pattern relapsed significantly more frequently if they were switched to placebo than if they continued to receive fluoxetine (P<.001 for weeks 12-26, P<.005 for weeks 26-50, and P<.41 for weeks 50-62). Patients with a placebo response pattern had an equivalent outcome whether maintained on fluoxetine therapy or placebo (P<.20 for weeks 12-26, test invalid for weeks 26-50, and P <.67 for weeks 50-62). Patients with a placebo response pattern relapsed more often when they continued to receive fluoxetine than patients with a true drug response pattern (P<.01 for weeks 12-26, P<.10 for weeks 26-50, and P<.36 for weeks 50-62).

Conclusions

These findings confirm that pattern analysis validly differentiates true drug from nonspecific initial responses and extend its use to the continuation and maintenance phases of treatment for depression. Investigations into the mechanisms of antidepressant activity might best be limited to those that can account for delayed efficacy. Fluoxetine's efficacy during the continuation and maintenance phases of treatment may be limited to patients with a true drug pattern of initial response.

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