The Pharmacotherapy of Depressive Illness in Adolescents: An Open-Label Comparison of Fluoxetine With Imipramine-Treated Historical Controls

Background:This open-label, 6-week clinical trial investigated the response to fluoxetine in medication-naive adolescents hospitalized for treatment of major depression.

Method:A total of 52 consecutively admitted patients (mean age=15.7 years) fulfilling Research Diagnostic Criteria for unipolar, nonpsychotic major depression received fluoxetine monotherapy (mean dose=33.2 mg/day) in conjunction with psychosocial therapies. Outcome was assessed weekly using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) and the Clinical Global Impressions Scale (CGI). Response in this cohort was compared with that observed in 28 historical controls treated with imipramine (mean dose=217 mg/day) who were consecutively admitted patients to this same facility and assessed in an identical, standardized, open-label protocol.

Results: HAM-D scores decreased by a mean of 13.2 in the fluoxetine group compared with 10.2 in the group receiving imipramine (p<.002). The mean percentage decreases in HAM-D scores in the 2 groups were 54.3% and 41.4%, respectively (p<.003). The percentages of patients classified as responders based on a final CGI score of 2 or less were 48.1% and 17.9%, respectively (p=.009). Medications were generally well tolerated with only 5 patients failing to complete the full 6 weeks of their original treatment.

Conclusion: In spite of the uncontrolled nature of these data, the findings add to recent evidence suggesting more favorable response to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors than tricyclics in adolescents with depressive illness.

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(3):164-169