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To test the prognostic value of suicidal status in depressed patients for responses to antidepressant treatment.
We evaluated treatment response and covariates in depressed patients diagnosed with DSM-IV major depressive (n=50) or bipolar disorders (n=32) treated initially in a day-hospital for 2 weeks, followed by 4 weeks of outpatient treatment with antidepressants, with or without a mood-stabilizer. Being suicidal was based on an item-3 of the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS17) scored at ≥3 and verified by baseline clinical assessment; morbidity and improvement were based on the total of the remaining 16 nonsuicidal items (HDRS16).
Suicidal (n=31) and nonsuicidal subjects (n=51) were similar in baseline ratings of depressive symptom-severity (HDRS16), but were depressed longer and less likely to be married. Suicidality ratings improved by 36% during 6 weeks of treatment among initially suicidal patients, but other depressive symptoms (HDRS16) improved (13%) only half as much as in nonsuicidal subjects (25%), independent of diagnosis and treatment. Fewer than half as many suicidal subjects showed ≥20% improvement in HDRS16 scores.
Findings, based on diagnostically complex and relatively treatment-resistant subjects, may not generalize.
Being suicidal may limit response to treatment in depressed major affective disorder patients, independent of diagnosis or overall symptomatic severity.
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