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BACKGROUND: Optimal successive treatment decisions are not well established after an initial medication nonresponse in major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. While practice guidelines offer consensus-based expert treatment recommendations, little is known about "real world" pharmacology decision making by practicing psychopharmacologists.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We surveyed via Internet the national membership of the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology (ASCP) to study preferred pharmacotherapy strategies and factors that influence medication choices for patients with mood disorders.

RESULTS: Surveys were returned by 154/752 ASCP members (21%). After nonresponse to a serotonin reuptake inhibitor in major depressive disorder, participants equally favored switching within or across antidepressant classes. After a partial response, adjunctive bupropion was the preferred intervention, followed by changing antidepressant classes. Atypical antipsychotic augmentation was only a fourth-line consideration, even though moderate or marked efficacy was perceived in most instances with olanzapine, aripiprazole, and quetiapine. Respondents favored avoiding antidepressants in bipolar I patients with mixed/cycling features or prior antidepressant-associated mania/hypomania. In rapid cyclers, they advocated antidepressant cessation and preferred the use of atypical antipsychotics and lamotrigine.

CONCLUSIONS: Participating psychopharmacologists treating adults with mood disorders report prescribing medications that largely mirror the evidence base with only a few notable exceptions, in consideration of the characteristics of definable clinical subpopulations.

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