Context.-The chronic form of major depression is associated with a high rate of prevalence and disability, but no controlled research has examined the impact of long-term treatment on the course and burden of illness. Objective.-To determine if maintenance therapy with sertraline hydrochloride can effectively prevent recurrence of depression in the high-risk group of patients experiencing chronic major depression or major depression with antecedent dysthymic disorder ('double depression'). Design.-A 76-week randomized, double-blind, parallel-group study, conducted from September 1993 to November 1996. Setting.-Outpatient psychiatric clinics at 10 academic medical centers and 2 clinical research centers. Intervention.-Maintenance treatment with either sertraline hydrochloride (n = 77) in flexible doses up to 200 mg or placebo (n = 84). Patients.-A total of 161 outpatients with chronic major or double depression who responded to sertraline in a 12-week, double-blind, acute-phase treatment trial and continued to have a satisfactory therapeutic response during a subsequent 4-month continuation phase. Main Outcome Measure.-Time to recurrence of major depression. Results.-Sertraline afforded significantly greater prophylaxis against recurrence than did placebo (5 [6%] of 77 in the sertraline group vs 19 [23%] of 84 in the placebo group; P = .002 for the log-rank test of time-to- recurrence distributions). Clinically significant depressive symptoms reemerged in 20 (26%) of 77 patients treated with sertraline vs 42 (50%) of 84 patients who received placebo (P = .001). With use of a Cox proportional hazards model, patients receiving placebo were 4.07 times more likely (95% CI, 1.51-10.95; P = .005) to experience a depression recurrence, after adjustment for study site, type of depression, and randomization strata. Conclusions.-Maintenance therapy with sertraline is well tolerated and has significant efficacy in preventing recurrence or reemergence of depression in chronically depressed patients.
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