Fluoxetine treatment in patients
with recurrent brief depression

Stamenkovic M, Blasbichier T, Riederer F,
Pezawas L, Brandstatter N, Aschauer HN, Kasper S.
Department of General Psychiatry,
University Hospital for Psychiatry,
Vienna, Austria.
Int Clin Psychopharmacol 2001 Jul;16(4):221-6


Recurrent brief depression (RBD) fulfills DSM-IV criteria for major depression except duration. Depressive episodes last at least 2 days but less than 2 weeks occurring at least once a month for 12 consecutive months without association to the menstrual cycle. RBD has a high prevalence in the general population (approximately 10%). At present, there are few double-blind controlled studies indicating that selective serotonine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might not be effective in treatment of RBD. However, most of those studies include patients with a history of frequent suicide attempts and depressive episodes lasting shorter 2 weeks. It has previously been shown that fluoxetine was effective in patients with RBD in an open-label study. The objective of our study was to reinvestigate these contradictory results concerning the effectiveness of fluoxetine in patients with RBD. Seventeen patients with RBD according to DSM-IV and ICD-10 diagnostic criteria, who had no history of major depression were treated with a dosage of 20-40 mg fluoxetine daily. Patients had to keep a diary in order to document psychopathological symptoms according to DSM-IV. We also used the 21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Clinical Global Impressions (CGI). Duration of the study was 8 weeks. The diaries of nine patients were observed for a clinical observation period of 20 weeks after the end of the study with continued fluoxetine treatment. Two patients who initially fulfilled diagnostic criteria for RBD suffered from depressive episodes that lasted longer than 2 weeks. Therefore, their data had to be excluded from primary analysis. In the remaining 15 patients, we showed statistically significant improvement of depressive episodes measured by patient's diary, HIAM-D, BDI and CGI that persisted over the clinical observation period. Frequency of depressive episodes showed a significant decrease during fluoxetine treatment. Duration and severity of the single depressive episodes also decreased but did not reach statistical significance. In accordance with previous studies, fluoxetine could be a treatment option for patients with RBD. Treatment of RBD with SSRIs has been discussed controversially in the literature. Our study shows the effectiveness of fluoxetine in this depressive disorder. To confirm these preliminary results, a double-blind controlled study is necessary.
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