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A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Comparing the Effects of Sertraline Versus Amitriptyline in the Treatment of Major Depression

J Clin Psychiatry 1997;58:484-491

Background: This study was designed to compare the efficacy, safety, tolerability profiles, and effects on quality of life of the serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor antidepressant sertraline versus the nonselective tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline and placebo in patients with major depression.

Method: Outpatients with DSM-III-R major depression were randomly assigned to double-blind treatment for 8 weeks with sertraline (50_200 mg daily), amitriptyline (50_150 mg daily), or matching placebo. Assessments included the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale, Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scale, Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale, Global Assessment Scale, Profile of Mood States, Beck Depression Inventory, Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire, and Health-Related Quality of Life battery.

Results: All treatment groups demonstrated statistically significant improvement from baseline in depression ratings by Week 1 and thereafter. The antidepressant effects of amitriptyline and sertraline were significantly (p<.05) greater than placebo and did not differ significantly from each other. Sertraline was associated with significantly (p<.05) greater subjective (i.e., patient-rated) improvement in mood than amitriptyline or placebo. Both active drugs were associated with greater improvements than placebo on most quality of life measurements. On several items, sertraline, but not amitriptyline, was superior to placebo. There was a discernible effect of sertraline earlier than amitriptyline on most quality of life scales. Amitriptyline therapy was associated with significantly more treatment-related adverse events, and discontinuations due to treatment-related adverse events, in comparison to both sertraline and placebo therapy.

Conclusion: Sertraline and amitriptyline each were effective treatments for major depression as assessed by both physician- and patient-rated scales. These results show that sertraline therapy is better tolerated than amitriptyline therapy. Quality of life was also improved by effective antidepressant treatment, with sertraline showing a tendency to produce greater improvements on quality of life measures.