Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Single-Dose Metergoline in Depressed Patients With Seasonal Affective Disorder

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A role for serotonin in season affective disorder (SAD) has been explored with a variety of serotonergic pharmacologic agents. The authors initially hypothesized that metergoline, a nonspecific serotonin antagonist, would exacerbate depressive symptoms. In a small, open-label pilot study, the authors observed the opposite effect. They decided to follow up on this finding with this formal study. The study followed a double-blind, randomized cross-over design. Sixteen untreated, depressed patients with SAD received single oral doses of metergoline 8 mg and of placebo, spaced 1 week apart. Fourteen patients were restudied after 2 weeks of light treatment. Depression ratings using the Structured Interview Guide for the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale—Seasonal Affective Disorder Version were performed at baseline and at 3 and 6 days after each intervention. These data were analyzed by baseline-corrected repeated measures with analysis of variance. In the off-lights condition, severity of depression was diminished after metergoline compared with placebo administration (p = 0.001). Patient daily self-ratings suggested that the peak effect occurred 2 to 4 days after study drug administration. In contrast, after 2 weeks of treatment with bright artificial light, metergoline did not dem-onstrate a significant effect on mood. These data suggest that single doses of metergoline may have antidepressant effects that last several days. Possible mechanisms include 5-hydroxytryptamine2 receptor downregulation and dopamine agonism.

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