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A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Augmentation With Lamotrigine or Placebo in Patients Concomitantly Treated With Fluoxetine for Resistant Major Depressive Episodes

J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64:403-407

Background: Evidence of the antidepressant efficacy of lamotrigine is increasing, although there are no placebo-controlled trials of lamotrigine augmentation in depression. The aim of this study was to assess if augmentation with lamotrigine was superior to placebo in patients who were receiving fluoxetine for resistant major depressive episodes.

Method: Twenty-three patients who had experienced at least 1 major depressive episode that was resistant to at least 1 prior trial of antidepressant therapy were selected. These patients were treated with fluoxetine, 20 mg/day, and concomitantly randomly assigned to receive either lamotrigine (N = 13) or placebo (N = 10) for 6 weeks. The dose of lamotrigine was titrated upward from 25 mg/day to 100 mg/day. Patients suffering from bipolar II disorder (N = 8) or from major depressive disorder (N = 15) (DSM-IV criteria) were enrolled, resulting in heterogeneity of the sample. The primary outcome measure was Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression score. Data were collected from 2000-2001.

Results: Lamotrigine was statistically superior to placebo on the Clinical Global Impressions scale at endpoint, both in absolute terms (mean ± SD Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scores: lamotrigine, 2.15 ± 1.28; placebo, 3.40 ± 1.17; p = .0308) and using a responder analysis, with response defined as a Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement score of 2 or less (lamotrigine, 84.62% [N = 11]; placebo, 30.00% [N = 3]; p = .013). The effect of lamotrigine on Clinical Global Impressions scale scores was seen in both major depressive disorder and bipolar II disorder. Lamotrigine, however, failed to separate statistically from placebo on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale. This failure to differentiate on a primary outcome measure is essentially a negative study result. This result is most likely an artifact of the small sample size used and the resultant limited power of the study.

Conclusion: The results of this trial add to the literature suggesting potential efficacy of the antidepressant profile of lamotrigine. In addition, this study points to a possible role of lamotrigine as an augmentation agent in depression.