Associations Between Medication Class and Subsequent Augmentation of Depression Treatment in Privately Insured US Adults

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Treatment augmentation is an important clinical decision in the pharmacotherapy for depression, yet few studies have examined the rates of treatment augmentation by medication class.


The aim of this study was to examine which initial pharmacotherapies for depression are more likely than others to result in subsequent treatment augmentation.


This study is a retrospective cohort analysis of administrative data of 214,705 privately insured US adults between the age of 18 and 64 years who were diagnosed with a new episode of depression in 2009. Propensity score–adjusted logistic regression and Cox regression were used to model the effect of the class of initial monotherapy on treatment augmentation. Risk adjustors included depression severity, comorbidities, provider type, insurance, and demographic characteristics.


The class of initial monotherapy and the health care provider type were the main independent variables of interest.

Main Outcome

The outcome was the augmentation of monotherapy.


Thirty-four percent of individuals received treatment augmentation. Compared with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor monotherapy, second-generation antipsychotics as the initial treatment were associated with significant increase in the likelihood of augmentation compared with the other classes (hazards ratio, 2.59; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.51–2.68). This result was corroborated after propensity score adjustment (odds ratio, 2.85; 95% CI, 2.70–3.00) when comparing second-generation antipsychotics to the other classes of pharmacotherapy. The other significant predictor of treatment augmentation was the provider type. Mental health specialists were 27% more likely to augment a treatment compared with generalists (hazards ratio, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.25–1.30).


The type of initial antidepressant therapy is associated with the chances of treatment augmentation. Second-generation antipsychotics progressed to augmentation more rapidly than the other classes.

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