In men with major depressive disorder (MMD) who were not responding well to an antidepressant treatment, adding aripiprazole resulted in a modest increase in the likelihood of remission, compared with switching to bupropion monotherapy, according to results from a new randomized study.
The findings, published online July 11 in JAMA, come from a randomized, single-blinded trial enrolling more than 1,500 Veterans Health Administration patients (85% men; mean age, 54) with persistent MDD symptoms despite a trial of at least 1 antidepressant drug (JAMA. 2017;318:132-45.).
The VA Augmentation and Switching Treatments for Improving Depression Outcomes (VAST-D) study, led by, of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, Conn., and carried out at 35 Veterans Health Administration treatment centers, was designed to help answer some of the lingering questions about augmentation strategies that the landmark, federally funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial, from 2006, could not answer.
While the STAR*D investigators found bupropion to be an effective switching and augmentation agent in people who had failed citalopram monotherapy, the study was not powered to compare results for switching and augmentation. Nor did STAR*D include augmentation with atypical antipsychotics such as aripiprazole, a treatment strategy that was not yet in wide use.
The VAST-D study also differed from most depression trials in that most of the patients were men. The main outcome was clinical remission within 12 weeks of initiating one of the three treatment strategies. Subjects were randomized to augmentation of current treatment with aripiprazole 2-15 mg (n = 505) or bupropion 150-400 mg (n = 506) or were switched from current treatment to bupropion monotherapy (n = 511).
Remission rates during the first 12 weeks were 22% for patients switched from their current drug to bupropion, 27% for those who augmented treatment with bupropion, and 29% for those who augmented treatment with aripiprazole, though the difference in remission reached statistical significance only for the adjunctive aripiprazole group vs. the bupropion monotherapy group (relative risk, 1.30; 95% confidence interval, 1.05-1.60; P = .02).
Clinical response, as measured using two validated scoring systems, was higher (74%) in the aripiprazole group at 12 weeks, compared with the bupropion only (62%) or bupropion augmentation (66%) groups, a difference that reached statistical significance. Anxiety was more commonly reported among patients in the bupropion groups, while somnolence, akathisia, and weight gain were more frequently reported among patients treated with aripiprazole.
Though aripiprazole augmentation was seen associated with a higher rate of remission and greater response, Dr. Mohamed and her colleagues cautioned that, “given the small effect size and adverse effects” associated with the atypical antipsychotic drug, “further analysis, including cost-effectiveness, is needed to understand the net utility of this approach.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs sponsored the study. Bristol-Myers Squibb provided aripiprazole to investigators. Of the study’s 16 listed coauthors, 5 reported financial relationships with Bristol-Myers Squibb or other manufacturers.