Treatment of Men With Major Depression: A Comparison of Sequential Cohorts Treated With Either Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or Newer Generation Antidepressants

Objective: This report compares response to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy in sequential cohorts of men with DSM-III-R major depression.

Method: Patients were enrolled in consecutive standardized 16-week treatment protocols conducted in the same research clinic. The first group (N = 52) was treated with Beck's model of CBT, whereas the second group (N = 23) received randomized but open-label treatment with either fluoxetine (N = 10) or bupropion (N = 13). Crossover to the alternate medication was permitted after 8 weeks of treatment for antidepressant nonresponders. The patient groups were well matched prior to treatment. Outcomes included remission and nonresponse rates, as well as both independent clinical evaluations and self-reported measures of depressive symptoms.

Results: Despite limited statistical power to detect differences between treatments, depressed men treated with pharmacotherapy had significantly greater improvements on 4 of 6 continuous dependent measures and a significantly lower rate of nonresponse (i.e., 13% vs. 46%). The difference favoring pharmacotherapy was late-emerging and partially explained by crossing over nonresponders to the alternate medication. The advantage of pharmacotherapy over CBT also tended to be larger among the subgroup of patients with chronic depression.

Conclusion: Results of prior research comparing pharmacotherapy and CBT may have been influenced by the composition of study groups, particularly the gender composition, the choice of antidepressant comparators, or an interaction of these factors. Prospective studies utilizing flexible dosing of modern antidepressants and, if necessary, sequential trials of dissimilar medications are needed to confirm these findings.

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(7):466-472