Factors Affecting Return of Symptoms 1 Year After Treatment in a 62-Week Controlled Study of Fluoxetine in Major Depression




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Background: In spite of impressive results in acute studies, the long-term treatment of major depression remains problematic. To explore the return of depressive symptoms and their interaction with social factors on long-term outcome, we assessed 55 patients whose depression had been treated during a 62-week, fluoxetine maintenance study, 1 year after the study’s termination. Method: During the year following the study termination, patients were free to select treatment options. Assessments at the 1-year follow-up included measures of depressive symptoms (using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression [HAM-D]), social and marital impairment (using the Weissman Social Adjustment Scale [SAS]), personal stressors (using the Holmes Social Readjustment Rating Scale), and history of treatment during the past year. Results: At the time of the naturalistic follow-up, 53% of patients sustained their improvement in mood. Factors associated with return of depressive symptoms included personal stresses, marital maladjustment, personal decision to discontinue antidepressants, and medication failure. Psychosocial variables were associated with poor outcome in over 90% of impaired subjects. Development of subsyndromal symptoms during the 50-week double-blind phase was predictive of poorer outcome at the long-term follow-up. Conclusion: The study demonstrates that no matter how effective initial pharmacologic therapy may be, without ongoing clinical monitoring and support, particularly in dealing with issues such as marriage and handling significant life stresses, and compliance with medications, it will not be successful in the long-term treatment for a significant portion of patients with depression.

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(suppl 22):16-23