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Antipsychotic Use in Treatment-Resistant Depression

Second-generation antipsychotic agents can be useful in patients with treatment-resistant depression when patients and clinicians use a shared decision-making approach, write the authors of a review article: “One in three adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) do not experience clinically significant improvement after multiple sequential courses of antidepressants and have treatment-resistant depression (TRD). The presence of TRD contributes to the morbidity and excess mortality associated with MDD and has been linked to significantly increased health care expenses. In the absence of a consensus definition of TRD, this report takes a broad approach by considering inadequate response to one or more courses of antidepressants and focuses on atypical antipsychotics that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of depression (aripiprazole, brexpiprazole, cariprazine, extended-release quetiapine, and olanzapine-fluoxetine combination). While multiple acute-phase studies have demonstrated the efficacy of these medications in improving depressive symptoms, clinically meaningful improvement (i.e., remission) remains limited, with significant concerns about side effects (including weight gain, metabolic dysfunction, extrapyramidal symptoms, and tardive dyskinesia), especially with long-term use. With the rapidly evolving landscape of antidepressant treatments over the past few years, which has witnessed approval of rapid-acting antidepressants (e.g., esketamine nasal spray and dextromethorphan-bupropion combination) and several more in the late-stage pipeline (e.g., zuranolone and psilocybin), it remains to be seen whether the use of atypical antipsychotics will go the way of the older and rarely prescribed antidepressants (such as tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Pragmatic clinical trials are needed to compare the effectiveness of atypical antipsychotics with TRD-specific pharmacotherapies and neuromodulation treatments and to identify the optimal sequencing of these varied approaches for patients with MDD. When using atypical antipsychotics, clinicians and patients are encouraged to use a shared decision-making approach by personalizing treatment selection based on anticipated side effects, tolerability, cost, and feasibility.”

See a related clinical trial and editorial.

Source: American Journal of Psychiatry