Introduction: Because major depressive disorder (MDD) is often chronic and recurrent, even pediatric patients who are treated successfully during an acute episode may need longer-term treatment. Yet, data on long-term treatment with antidepressants in pediatric MDD are limited.
Objective: To evaluate long-term effectiveness and safety of treatment with venlafaxine extended-release (ER) in children and adolescents with MDD.
Methods: Subjects (n=86) 7–17 years of age with MDD entered a multicenter, open-label study of flexible-dose venlafaxine ER for 6 weeks of acute treatment, followed by continuation treatment for up to 6 months total treatment. The primary efficacy variable was the Children's Depression Rating Scale-Revised (CDRS-R) total score (intent-to-treat population).
Results: Mean CDRS-R total score decreased from 60.1±10.0 at baseline to 36.3±13.1 at week 6, and to 33.8±15.0 at 6 months (last observation carried forward). Among completers (n=36), the mean CDRS-R total score was 24.3±7.6 at the end of 6 months of treatment. The most frequent treatment-emergent adverse events were headache (53%), nausea (26%), infection (24%), abdominal pain (22%), vomiting (21%), and pharyngitis (19%). Fifteen (17%) participants discontinued due to adverse events, 9 of whom did so within the first 6 weeks. Serious adverse events (suicide attempt [two], hostility [two], hallucinations, depression, and pharyngitis) occurred in seven patients. There were no suicides.
Conclusion: Most improvement with venlafaxine ER occurs during the first 6 weeks of treatment. Prescribers should be alert to signs of suicidal ideation and hostility in pediatric patients.