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Combined pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in the acute and continuation treatment of elderly patients with recurrent major depression: a preliminary report
Am J Psychiatry 1992;149:1687-1692.
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The authors examined the rate of response to the combination of nortriptyline and interpersonal psychotherapy for acute and continuation treatment of elderly patients with recurrent major depression. METHOD: The subjects were 73 elderly patients, 61 of whom completed treatment. Nortriptyline steady-state blood levels were maintained at 80-120 ng/ml, and interpersonal psychotherapy was administered weekly for 9.1 weeks (medium) of acute therapy and was decreased from biweekly to triweekly during 16 weeks of continuation therapy. During acute treatment nonresponding patients also received brief adjunctive pharmacotherapy with lithium or perphenazine. RESULTS: Of the 61 subjects given adequate trials of nortriptyline and interpersonal psychotherapy, 48 (78.7%) achieved full remission (Hamilton depression rating of 10 or lower over 16 weeks of continuation therapy), 10 patients (16.4%) did not respond (Hamilton rating never below 15), and three achieved only partial remission (Hamilton rating of 11-14). Early versus late onset was not associated with a difference in response rate. During the placebo-controlled, double-blind transition to maintenance therapy, 19 (76.0%) of the 25 patients randomly assigned to placebo maintenance conditions showed continued recovery and six relapsed. None of the 24 patients assigned to nortriptyline conditions relapsed. CONCLUSIONS: Use of nortriptyline plus interpersonal psychotherapy for 9.1 weeks (median) of acute and 16 weeks of continuation therapy appears to be associated with good response and relatively low attrition but about a 25% chance of relapse during double-blind discontinuation of nortriptyline. These data require confirmation in a controlled clinical trial of acute and continuation therapy.

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