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Efficacy and safety of Chinese patent medicines combined with antidepressants for treatment of depression in adults: A multiple-treatment meta-analysis.

BACKGROUND: Combinations of Chinese patent medicines (CPM) with antidepressants (including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI), tricyclic antidepressants (TCA), and noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NaSSA)) are frequently utilized for treating depression in adults. However, the efficacy and safety of these combination treatments remain to be established.

METHODS: Systematic search was conducted in seven electronic databases, regulatory websites and international registers of trials from 1994 to 2023 that included adult patients with depressive disorders who received CPM combined with antidepressants. The Multiple-Treatment Meta-Analysis (MTMA) was conducted using a random effects model with Stata/MP17 and R4.3.5 software. Primary outcomes were total efficacy rate, Hamilton Depression Scale (HAMD) score, and Treatment Emergency Symptom Scale (TESS) score. Secondary outcomes included brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels.

RESULTS: A total of 146 randomized controlled trials (13,754 participants: 6929 in intervention and 6825 in control groups) were included. For total effective rate, Multiple-Treatment Meta-Analysis results showed that the overall effect of combined intervention was better compared with antidepressants alone, where Jieyuanshenkeli (JYASKL) presented the optimal option for improving total efficacy (OR = 5.39, 95% CI [2.60, 11.18], SUCRA = 84.50%). In reduding the HAMD, Shuganjieyujiaonang (SGJYJN) was most likely to reduce the HAMD score (SMD = -2.20, 95% CI [-3.06, -1.33], SUCRA = 86.10%), Jieyuanshenkeli (JYASKL),Tianewangbuxindan (TWBXD), Shuyukeli (SYKL), Anshenbuxinwan (ASBXW) combination intervention did not appear to be statistically superior to antidepressants alone. In theTreatment Emergency Symptom Scale (TESS), Wulinjiaonang induced the most significant reduction in TESS score (SMD = -1.98, 95% CI [-3.59, -0.36], SUCRA = 90.40%). Tianmengjiaonang (TMJN) + Antidepressants(AD) (SUCRA = 88.30%) displayed the highest scores in increasing the levels of BDNF, although not statistically significant compared to Antidepressants(AD) alone (SMD = 1.23, 95% CI [0.90, 1.55]).

CONCLUSION: Combinations of CPM and antidepressants showed superior efficacy over antidepressants alone. The optimal combinations were determined as Shuganjieyu Jiaonang (SGJYJN)/SSRIs and Jieyuanshenkeli (JYASKL)/SSRIs. In terms of safety, results showed that combination therapy did not show better TESS efficacy than antidepressants alone.Although some of the combination interventions were not superior than antidepressants alone in reducing HAMD scores,our findings provide a potentially significant alternative option for clinical complementary therapy. However, these results require further validation through larger sample sizes, multicenter randomized controlled trials, and real-world data.

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