Treating depression after initial treatment failure: Directly comparing switch and augmenting strategies in STAR*D

Bradley N. Gaynes, Stacie B. Dusetzina, Alan R. Ellis, Richard A. Hansen, Joel F. Farley, William C. Miller, Til Stürmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Augmenting and switching antidepressant medications are the 2 most common next-step strategies for depressed patients failing initial medication treatment. These approaches have not been directly compared; thus, our objectives are to compare outcomes for medication augmentation versus switching for patients with major depressive disorder in the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) clinical trial. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective analysis of participants aged 18 to 75 years with DSM-IV nonpsychotic depression who failed to remit with initial treatment in the STAR*D clinical trial (N = 1292). We compared depressive symptom remission, response, and quality of life among participants in each study arm using propensity score matching to minimize selection bias. RESULTS: The propensity-score-matched augment (N = 269) and switch (N = 269) groups were well balanced on measured characteristics. Neither the likelihood of remission (risk ratio, 1.14; 95% confidence level, 0.82-1.58) or response (risk ratio, 1.14; 95% confidence level, 0.82-1.58), nor the time to remission (log-rank test, P = 0.946) or response (log-rank test, P = 0.243) differed by treatment strategy. Similarly, quality of life did not differ. Post hoc analyses suggested that augmentation improved outcomes for patients tolerating 12 or more weeks of initial treatment and those with partial initial treatment response. CONCLUSIONS: For patients receiving and tolerating aggressive initial antidepressant trials, there is no clear preference for next-step augmentation versus switching. Findings tentatively suggest that those who complete an initial treatment of 12 weeks or more and have a partial response with residual mild depressive severity may benefit more from augmentation relative to switching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-119
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012


  • major depressive disorder
  • outcome
  • propensity score
  • treatment resistance

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