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Two-Year Maintenance Treatment With Citalopram, 20 mg, in Unipolar Subjects With High Recurrence Rate

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(12):861-865

Background: The efficacy of citalopram, 20 to 60 mg/day, in relapse prevention in major depression was demonstrated in 6-month placebo-controlled studies. The authors tested the efficacy of citalopram, 40 mg/day, in relapse prevention over a 4-month period and citalopram, 20 mg/day, in recurrence prevention over a 24-month period.

Method: Fifty inpatients with recurrent major depressive disorder (DSM-IV criteria) who had had at least one depressive episode during the 18 months preceding the index episode were openly treated with citalopram, 40 mg/day. Thirty-six subjects had a stable response to citalopram and remained in the continuation treatment with citalopram, 40 mg/day, for 4 months as outpatients. At the time of recovery, 32 patients gave their written informed consent before entering the 24-month maintenance period with citalopram, 20 mg/day. They were evaluated monthly by trained psychiatrists on the basis of the 21-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Every 3 months, patients were given the Sheehan Disability Scale, a self-rating instrument, to assess their psychosocial adjustment.

Results: No relapse was observed in the 4-month continuation period. Sixteen (50%) of 32 patients who entered the 24-month maintenance period had a new recurrence. Patients with recurrence showed a persistent moderate disability on Sheehan Disability Scale score, while no further differences were highlighted in clinical and demographic characteristics between patients with and without recurrence.

Conclusion: In agreement with previous findings, these data suggest that a full dose of antidepressant is strongly recommended in prophylactic therapy of patients with recurrent major depression. Moreover, it appears that psychosocial impairment may increase the risk of recurrence, thus conditioning a poor outcome.