How Do You Choose a Second-Line Treatment Option for Depression?

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A majority of patients with major depression do not remit or adequately respond to initial antidepressant therapy. When response is insufficient, a diagnosis of depression and any comorbidities should be confirmed, treatment adherence should be established, and antidepressant dosages should be optimized as tolerated. If response is still insufficient, then implementing second-line treatment strategies is warranted. Second-line strategies of switching to or combining/augmenting the initial agent with one of a variety of antidepressant medications and/or psychotherapies improves remission rates, although no single approach or agent has demonstrated clear superiority over any other. Second-line treatment selections should be driven by safety considerations, patients’ symptom profiles, and patient preference. Comorbid medical conditions, especially cardiac and cerebrovascular complications, and potential drug-drug interactions should be considered when making treatment decisions.

J Clin Psychiatry 2010;71(suppl 1):21–26