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Comparison of the efficacy and safety of sertraline, reboxetine, and venlafaxine in patients with major depressive disorder: a pooled analysis of four randomized, open-label trials

Cengiz Akkaya, Selcuk Kirli, Salih Saygin Eker, Sengul Cangur, Mustafa Canbazoglu, Asli Sarandol.

Objective: This paper aims to compare the efficacy and safety of three widely used antidepressants, sertraline, reboxetine, a sertraline-reboxetine combination and venlafaxine, in the treatment of MDD and their effect on depressive symptoms in MDD patients.
Methods: A total of 206 patients were included in reboxetine, venlafaxine, sertraline, and sertraline-reboxetine combination groups; however 37 cases dropped out during the study period. The remaining 169 patients were distributed to groups as follows: reboxetine: 43, venlafaxine: 43, sertraline 42, sertraline-reboxetine combination group: 41. The data from patients, who were included and completed the previous four open-label studies, were pooled in the current study.
Results: Treatment groups did not differ in terms of depression-related and sociodemographic features. There were no significant differences among treatment groups in terms of efficacy, safety, and remission. The reductions in HDRS scores as percentages were higher in venlafaxine group compared to sertraline group at visit 2 and visit 3 [p=0.001, ES: 0.1404 (large) and p=0.002, ES: 0.1109 (medium), respectively] and to the sertraline-reboxetine combination group at visit 2 and visit 3 [p=0.006, ES: 0.0910 (medium) and p=0.004, ES: 0.1023 (medium), respectively]. In addition, percentage changes of HDRS scores were higher in the reboxetine group compared to sertraline group at visit 2 [p=0.023, ES: 0.0615 (medium)]. HDRS items 1, 7, 10, 11, 13, and 14 formed the total HDRS score of all patients in remission.
Conclusions: The antidepressants acting through different neurotransmitter systems display similar efficacy, though they are effective on different depressive symptoms or symptom clusters. Those treatment strategies also differed from each other in terms of onset of antidepressant efficacy. Despite its limitations, due to the lack of studies on this issue in the literature, the present stuydy is a valuable preliminary study.

Key words: Unipolar depression, antidepressant, neurotransmitters, reboxetine, sertraline, venlafaxine

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