Risk of Adverse Events with the Use of Augmentation Therapy for the Treatment of Resistant Depression

Schweitzer, I.; Tuckwell, V.
December 1998
Drug Safety;Dec1998, Vol. 19 Issue 6, p455
Academic Journal
Augmentation therapy is used for those situations where a patient's depression is either treatment-resistant, or partially and/or insufficiently responsive to treatment. It also may be used to attempt to induce a more rapid treatment response. Using drugs together may increase the risk of adverse effects, through potentiation of existing adverse effects or alterations in plasma concentrations of the drug. It is important that clinicians are aware of potential risks of augmentation therapy. Lithium augmentation of a tricyclic antidepressant is relatively well tolerated and the dangers are no greater than using these medications on their own. There are also no reports of serious adverse events when lithium is added to a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. With lithium augmentation of selective serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) therapy there have been case reports of the development of a central serotonin syndrome, and thus caution must exercised. A serious concern when using a tricyclic antidepressant to augment an SSRI is the effect of the SSRI on the cytochrome P450 system and the resulting significant increase in tricyclic antidepressant blood concentrations. Augmentation with thyroid hormones appears to be well tolerated and effective. Case reports and open studies indicate that augmentation with buspirone and the psychostimulants, carbamazepine and valproic acid (valproate sodium) is effective and results in minimal adverse effects. However, there is no empirical evidence supporting these results. Recent work supports the tolerability and efficacy of pindolol augmentation. Considerable caution should be exercised when combining psychotropic drugs. The practitioner should only do so with a full knowledge of the compounds involved and their pharmacological properties.


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