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If Depression Meds Don't Work, Switching Sooner May Be Better

Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

When the first medication you take for depression doesn't work, should your doctor raise the dose or try a different one? A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that switching relatively early does not worsen symptoms, and may lead to slightly better results over the long term.

The study involved 840 people being treated for depression. They started on escitalopram (Lexapro), a common antidepressant. In 70% of people, the escitalopram did not start to work after a month.

The "nonresponders" were chosen at random to continue taking escitalopram at the same or higher dose or to switch to a different kind of antidepressant, duloxetine (Cymbalta). If people who stayed with escitalopram didn't experience relief within two months, they also switched to duloxetine.

No matter which drug was prescribed, it took about the same amount of time for the drugs to take effect. But four months into the study, people who switched early were slightly more likely to see their depression lift completely.

Last Annual Review Date: 2012-11-01 Copyright: 2012 Harvard Health Publications

Reference: Depression section on Better Medicine

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