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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 52 (2010) 9, 615 - 625

New research

Dose-escalation of SSRIS in major depressive disorder. Should not be recommended in current guidelines

H.G. Ruhé, J. Booij, H.C. van Weert, J.B. Reitsma, E.J. Franssen, M.C. Michel, A. Schene

background In cases where patients with unipolar depression do not respond to a standard dose of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (ssris), treatment guidelines often recommend a higher dose. A systematic review of the literature revealed uncertainty about the efficacy of dose escalation and pointed to methodological weaknesses in earlier research.
aim To review current practice and results concerning dose-escalation of ssris.
method We made a summary of previously published English articles that systematically reviewed previous ssri-dose-escalation studies in depressed patients and present the results of a recent double-blind randomised dose-escalation study of paroxetine. By means of a 123I-β-cit-spect study in a subgroup of the patients in the recent dose-escalation study it was possible to measure the amount of paroxetine bound to serotonin transporters. This provided combined clinical and pharmacological outcomes.
results The study with paroxetine provided clinical evidence that dose-escalation of paroxetine in depression was not effective and that adverse effects increased. The occupancy of the serotonin-transporters did not increase significantly after dose-escalation, despite increases in paroxetine serum levels.
conclusion Dose-escalation of ssris for patients with unipolar depression who did not respond to a standard dose, does not improve response or the chance of remission. The pharmacological explanation for this is that the occupancy of the serotonin-transporters does not increase following dose-escalation.

keywords depressive disorder, dose-escalation, serotonin-transporter, spect, ssris