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Effect of Reboxetine on Major Depressive Disorder in Breast Cancer Patients: An Open-Label Study

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65:515-520

Background: Depression is a common disorder in cancer patients, and it is associated with reduced quality of life, abnormal illness behavior, pain, and suicide risk. A few studies have investigated the effects of tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin reuptake inhibitors in cancer patients. No data are available regarding the use of reboxetine, a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor that has been shown to be safe (e.g., absence of clinically significant drug-drug interactions and cytochrome P450 metabolism) and effective in the treatment of depressed patients, including those with medical illness (e.g., Parkinson's disease, human immunodeficiency virus infection).

Method: The effects of reboxetine were investigated in 20 breast cancer patients with a DSM-IV diagnosis of major depressive disorder in an open, prospective 8-week trial. Severity of depression was assessed with the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D). Psychiatric symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory [BSI]), styles of coping with cancer (Mini-Mental Adjustment to Cancer [Mini-MAC]), quality of life (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C30 [EORTC-QLQ-C30]), and Clinical Global Impressions scale scores were also monitored.

Results: At 8 weeks, a significant (p < .01) reduction was observed in HAM-D scores, several BSI dimension scores, and Mini-MAC hopelessness and anxious preoccupation scores. A significant (p < .05) improvement from baseline to endpoint was found on the EORTC-QLQ-C30 subfactors emotional, cognitive, dyspnea, sleep, and global. Discontinuation was necessary in 1 subject because of hypomanic switch and in another because of side effects (tachycardia, tension). Seven patients experienced transient side effects (e.g., mild anxiety, insomnia, sweating).

Conclusion: In this open trial, reboxetine appeared to be well tolerated and promising in reducing depressive symptoms and maladjusted coping styles and in improving scores on quality-of-life parameters.