Antipsychotic medication treatment patterns in adult depression

Tobias Gerhard, T. Scott Stroup, Christoph U. Correll, Cecilia Huang, Zhiqiang Tan, Stephen Crystal, Mark Olfson

Publication Date: 03/01/2018

Objective: To characterize the role of antipsychotic medications in the community treatment of adult depression. Methods: We identified adults (aged 18-64 years) with new episodes of depression treatment (ICD-9-CM 296.2, 296.3, 300.4, or 311) in US national Medicaid data (2001-2010). Patients with alternative ICD-9-CM antipsychotic indications, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, were excluded. Each patient was followed for at least 1 year to characterize antipsychotic and antidepressant treatment and emerging alternative antipsychotic indications. For patients without alternative indications through day 45 following start of antipsychotic treatment, antipsychotics were considered to be intended for treatment of depression. Among this group, we determined whether antipsychotic initiation was preceded by minimally adequate treatment with antidepressants, defined as active antidepressant treatment for = 31 days prior to and including the day of antipsychotic initiation. Results: Within 1 year following onset, 14.0% of patients started an antipsychotic medication. A total of 41.3% of antipsychotic initiators developed an antipsychotic indication other than depression through day 45 following antipsychotic initiation, most often bipolar disorder or depression with psychotic features. The remaining 58.7% of antipsychotic initiators presumably started antipsychotics for nonpsychotic depression. Of these, 71.3% did not have minimally adequate antidepressant treatment prior to starting the antipsychotic medication. Conclusion: Antipsychotic medications are used in approximately 1 in 7 patients with a new episode of depression. For 1 in 12 patients, the antipsychotic was considered to be intended for nonpsychotic depression. Almost three-quarters of these patients did not receive minimally adequate treatment with antidepressants prior to antipsychotic initiation. This pattern suggests potentially inappropriate and premature initiation of a drug class with substantial adverse effects and medical risks.