Mirtazapine is associated with less anxiolytic use among elderly depressed patients in long-term care facilities

Marie E Gardner, Daniel C Malone, Mark Sey, Maude A Babington
Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 2004, 5 (2): 101-6

BACKGROUND: Depression is a common, treatable disorder among nursing facility residents.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to examine medication use and cost between two groups of patients: (1) persons treated with mirtazapine, as compared with (2) persons taking other antidepressants.

DESIGN: This study was a retrospective chart review of long-term care patients. Consultant pharmacists collected data on patients who were receiving selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), venlafaxine, nefazodone, or mirtazapine.

SETTING: Nursing facilities that were geographically dispersed throughout the United States.

PARTICIPANTS: We studied patients greater than 65 years of age with major depressive disorder or a depression-related diagnosis and receiving antidepressant treatment for at least 3 months. Patients with bipolar-induced depression were excluded as well as those receiving tricyclic antidepressants.

RESULTS: The two groups were similar in terms of age, but those receiving mirtazapine had lower body weight and body mass index. Patients on mirtazapine were less likely to be taking a sedative/hypnotic (P = 0.006). This was primarily the result of fewer patients in the mirtazapine group taking lorazepam (P = 0.03). There was no difference between the two groups regarding their use of other psychotropic medications, including multiple antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, or appetite stimulants. Monthly medication costs were less for those patients receiving mirtazapine ($82.83) as compared with other antidepressants ($97.03) (P <0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that patients receiving mirtazapine are less likely to be on anxiolytic/hypnotic agents. The findings also suggest that medication costs are less when mirtazapine is used compared with other antidepressants.

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