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Remission, Residual Symptoms, and Nonresponse in the Usual Treatment of Major Depression in Managed Clinical Practice. [CME]

J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64:397-402

Background: Although published guidelines recommend the continuation of treatment for depression until full remission of symptoms and restoration of functioning, little is known about how often remission is achieved in usual practice and the precipitants of treatment termination when treatment outcome has not been optimal.

Method: A naturalistic study design examined 1859 patients receiving treatment for DSM-III-R major depression between 1995 and 1997 in the national provider network of a managed behavioral health organization (MBHO). Symptom and impairment ratings by clinicians were used to group patients into full remission, partial remission, and no response. Claims data were used to characterize treatment and identify comorbid medical conditions.

Results: According to clinician ratings, approximately 27% to 39% of patients achieved full remission. Medical and substance use comorbidity and hospital admission were more common in those with a partial response to treatment. Only half of patients without a treatment response received a trial of medication during their treatment. Patient choice was the most common reason for termination of treatment, although nearly 40% of clinicians concurred with patients' decisions even when symptoms had not improved.

Conclusion: Although rates of full remission were comparable to those in clinical trials of antidepressants, results suggest that clinicians may fail to recommend continuation and maintenance treatment consistent with best practice guidelines and that unsuccessful treatment often does not include antidepressant medication.