The authors evaluated a sequential treatment strategy of fluoxetine and relapse-prevention cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to determine effects on remission and relapse in youths with major depressive disorder.
Youths 8–17 years of age with major depression were treated openly with fluoxetine for 6 weeks. Those with an adequate response (defined as a reduction of 50% or more on the Children’s Depression Rating Scale–Revised [CDRS-R]) were randomly assigned to receive continued medication management alone or continued medication management plus CBT for an additional 6 months. The CBT was modified to address residual symptoms and was supplemented by well-being therapy. Primary outcome measures were time to remission (with remission defined as a CDRS-R score of 28 or less) and rate of relapse (with relapse defined as either a CDRS-R score of 40 or more with a history of 2 weeks of symptom worsening, or clinical deterioration).
Of the 200 participants enrolled in acute-phase treatment, 144 were assigned to continuation treatment with medication management alone (N=69) or medication management plus CBT (N=75). During the 30-week continuation treatment period, time to remission did not differ significantly between treatment groups (hazard ratio=1.26, 95% CI=0.87, 1.82). However, the medication management plus CBT group had a significantly lower risk of relapse than the medication management only group (hazard ratio=0.31, 95% CI=0.13, 0.75). The estimated probability of relapse by week 30 was lower with medication management plus CBT than with medication management only (9% compared with 26.5%).
Continuation-phase relapse-prevention CBT was effective in reducing the risk of relapse but not in accelerating time to remission in children and adolescents with major depressive disorder.