The safety of antidepressants in children and adolescents is being questioned and the efficacy of these drugs in juvenile depression remains uncertain.
To assess antidepressant efficacy in juvenile depression.
Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing responses to antidepressants, overall and by type, v. placebo in young people with depression.
Thirty drug-placebo contrasts in RCTs lasting 8 weeks (median) involved 3069 participants (512 person-years) of average age 13.5 years. Meta-analysis yielded a modest pooled drug/placebo response rate ratio (RR=1.22, 95% CI 1.15-1.31), with little separation between antidepressant types. Findings were similar for response rate differences and corresponding number needed to treat (NNT): overall NNT=9; tricyclic antidepressants NNT=14 > serotonin reuptake inhibitors NNT=9 > other antidepressants NNT=8. Numbers needed to treat decreased with increasing age: children (NNT=21) > mixed ages (NNT=10) > adolescents (NNT=8).
Antidepressants of all types showed limited efficacy in juvenile depression, but fluoxetine might be more effective, especially in adolescents. Studies in children and in severely depressed, hospitalised or suicidal juvenile patients are needed, and effective, safe and readily accessible treatments for juvenile depression are urgently required.
Declaration of interest
E.M.T. has received research support from Johnson & Johnson Psychiatry Research and Development. L.T. has received research support or served as a consultant to JDS, IFI, Eli Lilly and Janssen Pharmaceutical Corporations. R.J.B. is a consultant to or has received research support from Janssen, IFI, JDS, Eli Lilly, Novartis and Solvay Pharmaceutical Corporations.
Funding is detailed in the Acknowledgements.
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