Adequacy of antidepressant treatment after discharge and the occurrence of suicidal acts in major depression: a prospective study

Maria A Oquendo, Masoud Kamali, Steven P Ellis, Michael F Grunebaum, Kevin M Malone, Beth S Brodsky, Harold A Sackeim, J John Mann
American Journal of Psychiatry 2002, 159 (10): 1746-51

OBJECTIVE: Suicide attempts predict repeat attempts and suicide completion. Major depression requiring hospitalization is a risk factor for suicidal acts, particularly in the 2 years following discharge. The authors prospectively studied the adequacy of antidepressant treatment and its impact on suicidal acts in the 2 years after hospitalization for major depression.

METHOD: Patients (N=136) with major depression were interviewed at 3 months, 1 year, and 2 years after admission. At each interview, the presence of major depression and suicidal acts and the adequacy of antidepressant treatment were assessed. Cox's proportional hazards analysis with time-varying covariates was used to model the risk of a suicide attempt during the follow-up period.

RESULTS: Major depression in the follow-up period increased the risk of a suicide attempt sevenfold. For each suicide attempt in a subject's history, the risk for an attempt in the follow-up period increased by 30%. Antidepressant treatment during the follow-up period was mostly inadequate. Consequently, a relationship between adequacy of antidepressant treatment during follow-up and the risk of a suicide attempt could not be found. Furthermore, subjects with a history of a suicide attempt at baseline were not treated more vigorously than nonattempters.

CONCLUSIONS: Antidepressant treatment of depressed patients is strikingly inadequate, even in suicide attempters, known to be at higher risk for suicidal acts. This deficiency undermines the ability to measure the antisuicidal effects of antidepressants in naturalistic studies. Controlled studies of antidepressants are needed to evaluate effects on suicidal acts.

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