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Response and Remission Rates in Different Subpopulations With Major Depressive Disorder Administered Venlafaxine, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or Placebo

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62:869-877

Background: Most examinations of the clinical efficacy of drugs used to treat depression pool subjects across gender and age groups. This investigation compared these patient subpopulations on the basis of remission and response rates associated with venlafaxine and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment.

Method: A meta-analysis of original data from 8 comparable double-blind, active-controlled, randomized clinical trials (4 also placebo-controlled) was conducted. Antidepressant efficacy was assessed for patients (N = 2045) aged 18 to 83 years (subgroups: <= 40, 41-54, 55-64, and >= 65 years) who met DSM-III-R criteria for major depression or DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder and were randomly assigned to receive venlafaxine (immediate release, N = 474; extended release, N = 377), one of several SSRIs (N = 748), or placebo (N = 446) for up to 8 weeks. Symptoms of depression were assessed using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D). Remission was defined as a HAM-D-17 score <= 7, response was defined as >= 50% decrease in HAM-D-21 score, and absence of depressed mood was defined as a HAM-D depressed mood item score of 0.

Results: We detected no significant age-by-treatment, gender-by-treatment, or age-by-gender-by-treatment interactions; men and women of different ages within a given antidepressant treatment group exhibited similar rates of remission, response, and absence of depressed mood. Regardless of age or gender, remission rates during venlafaxine therapy were significantly higher than during SSRI therapy (remission rates at week 8: venlafaxine, 40%-55% vs. SSRI, 31%-37%; p < .05). Regardless of patient age or gender, onset of remission was more rapid with venlafaxine than with SSRI treatment. By contrast, rates of absence of depressed mood with venlafaxine (34%-42%) and SSRIs (31%-37%) did not differ significantly and tended to be similar for all patient subgroups.

Conclusion: These data suggest that men and women have comparable responses to SSRIs and venlafaxine across various age groups. Moreover, patients exhibited a more rapid onset and a greater likelihood of remission with venlafaxine therapy than with SSRI therapy regardless of age or gender.