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Open Access Primary research

What happens next?: a claims database study of second-line pharmacotherapy in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who initiate selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment

Susan Ball12*, Peter Classi1 and Ellen B Dennehy13

Author Affiliations

1 Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, IN 46285, USA

2 Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA

3 Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

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Annals of General Psychiatry 2014, 13:8  doi:10.1186/1744-859X-13-8

Published: 19 March 2014

Abstract

Background

The objective of this research was to examine treatment patterns and health-care costs associated with second-step pharmacotherapy in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who initiated monotherapy with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) in 2010.

Methods

This claims database study analyzed patients diagnosed with MDD who were prescribed a monotherapy SSRI, with the first prescription identified as the index date. Patients were required to be ≥18 years old, to have continuous insurance coverage from 1 year prior (pre-index) through 1 year post (post-index) from the index date, and to have not received an antidepressant in the pre-index period. The analyses are descriptive of the patient characteristics, initial SSRI prescribed, most commonly prescribed second-step therapies, and annualized health-care costs.

Results

The identified patients (N = 5,012) were predominantly female (65.2%) with a mean age of 41.9 years. The most frequent index SSRIs were citalopram (30.1%) and sertraline (27.5%), and 52.9% of patients were prescribed a second-step pharmacotherapy during the post-index period. Add-on therapy occurred twice more frequently than switching treatments, with either anxiolytics (40.2%) or antidepressants (37.1%) as the most common classes of add-on pharmacological therapies. Patients who added a second medication or switched therapies had higher annualized medical costs compared with patients who continued their index SSRI or discontinued treatment.

Conclusions

For patients who were initially treated with an SSRI therapy, approximately half were prescribed a second-step treatment. In this comprehensive claims analysis, many of these patients experienced the addition of second medication, rather than switching to a new therapy. Given the type of medications used, it is possible that second-step interventions were targeted toward resolution of residual symptoms; however, this work is limited by the use of claims data without information on dosing or clinical symptoms, side effects, or response. Findings from this study set the expectation that physicians and patients will most likely need to partner for additional interventions in order to achieve remission.

Keywords:
Treatment; SSRI; Prescription; Major depressive disorder