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Symptom dimensions have not yet been comprehensively tested as predictors of the substantial heterogeneity in outcomes of antidepressant treatment in major depressive disorder.
We tested nine symptom dimensions derived from a previously published factor analysis of depression rating scales as predictors of outcome in 811 adults with moderate to severe depression treated with flexibly dosed escitalopram or nortriptyline in Genome-based Therapeutic Drugs for Depression (GENDEP). The effects of symptom dimensions were tested in mixed-effect regression models that controlled for overall initial depression severity, age, sex and recruitment centre. Significant results were tested for replicability in 3637 adult out-patients with non-psychotic major depression treated with citalopram in level I of Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D).
The interest-activity symptom dimension (reflecting low interest, reduced activity, indecisiveness and lack of enjoyment) at baseline strongly predicted poor treatment outcome in GENDEP, irrespective of overall depression severity, antidepressant type and outcome measure used. The prediction of poor treatment outcome by the interest-activity dimension was robustly replicated in STAR*D, independent of a comprehensive list of baseline covariates.
Loss of interest, diminished activity and inability to make decisions predict poor outcome of antidepressant treatment even after adjustment for overall depression severity and other clinical covariates. The prominence of such symptoms may require additional treatment strategies and should be accounted for in future investigations of antidepressant response.
A number of scales are used to estimate the severity of depression. However, differences between self-report and clinician rating, multi-dimensionality and different weighting of individual symptoms in summed scores may affect the validity of measurement. In this study we examined and integrated the psychometric properties of three commonly used rating scales.
The 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17), the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were administered to 660 adult patients with unipolar depression in a multi-centre pharmacogenetic study. Item response theory (IRT) and factor analysis were used to evaluate their psychometric properties and estimate true depression severity, as well as to group items and derive factor scores.
The MADRS and the BDI provide internally consistent but mutually distinct estimates of depression severity. The HAMD-17 is not internally consistent and contains several items less suitable for out-patients. Factor analyses indicated a dominant depression factor. A model comprising three dimensions, namely ‘observed mood and anxiety’, ‘cognitive’ and ‘neurovegetative’, provided a more detailed description of depression severity.
The MADRS and the BDI can be recommended as complementary measures of depression severity. The three factor scores are proposed for external validation.
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