Introduction: Recent data suggest that escitalopram may be more effective in severe depression than other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Methods: Individual patient data from four randomized, double-blind comparative trials of escitalopram versus a serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) (two trials with duloxetine and two with venlafaxine extended release) in outpatients (18–85 years of age) with moderate-to-severe major depressive disorder were pooled. The primary efficacy parameter in all four trials was mean change in the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) score.
Results: Significantly fewer escitalopram (82/524) than SNRI (114/527) patients prematurely withdrew from treatment due to all causes (15.6% vs. 21.6%, Fisher Exact: P=.014) and adverse events (5.3% vs. 12.0%, Fisher Exact: P <.0001). Mean reduction in MADRS score from baseline to Week 8 was significantly greater for the escitalopram group versus the SNRI group using the last observation carried forward (LOCF) approach [mean treatment difference at Week 8 of 1.7 points (P <.01)]. Similar results were observed in the severely depressed (baseline MADRS score ≥30) patient subset (mean treatment difference at Week 8 of 2.9 points [P <.001, LOCF]). Observed cases analyses yielded no significant differences in efficacy parameters.
Conclusion: This pooled analysis indicates that escitalopram is at least as effective as the SNRIs (venlafaxine XR and duloxetine), even in severe depression, and escitalopram treatment was better tolerated.