PCORI has identified treatment-resistant depression as an important research topic. Patients, clinicians, and others want to learn: For patients whose depression has not gotten better after using two types of antidepressants, is it better to add another treatment or switch to a new one? To help answer this question, PCORI launched a funding initiative in 2015 on Management Strategies for Treatment-Resistant Depression. This research project is one of the studies PCORI awarded as part of this program.
This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.
What is the research about?
Major depression is a serious health problem that affects tens of millions of adults in the United States. Major depression affects the brain and causes severe symptoms that influence how people think, feel, and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating, and working.
Major depression is common among older adults. More than half of older adults who are diagnosed with major depression don’t get better even after trying two or more antidepressant medicines. These adults have treatment-resistant depression. Older adults who have treatment-resistant depression are at higher risk for disability, suicide, or death.
Although there are several treatment options for patients with treatment-resistant depression, research hasn’t compared their benefits and risks for older adults. Knowing how benefits and risks may change as people get older can help lead to personalized treatment for older adults.
This research study compares how well different types and combinations of medicines work for adults aged 60 years and older who have treatment-resistant depression.
Who can this research help?
Information from this study can help older adults who have treatment-resistant depression and their doctors choose a treatment or combination of treatments.
What is the research team doing?
The research team is enrolling 1,500 older adults with major depression that has not gotten better after treatment with at least two antidepressant medicines. The study takes place at five medical centers across the United States and Canada.
The study has two phases; each phase is 10 weeks long. In the first phase, the research team is assigning patients by chance to one of three groups. Patients in two of the groups are each adding one of two medicines (aripiprazole or bupropion) to the one they currently take. Patients in a third group are replacing their current medicine with another medicine (buproprion). Patients who are still depressed after the first phase move to the second phase. In the second phase, the research team is assigning these patients by chance to either add another medicine (lithium carbonate) to the one they already take or switch to a different medicine (nortriptyline). Patients continue to take the medicine or combination that works for them.
The research team is following all patients for one year. The research team is looking at the medicines’ long-term effects on patients’ well-being, severity of depression, serious health problems, falls, and mental and physical functioning.
A group of patients, family members, and healthcare professionals is advising the research team throughout the project. Patients and healthcare professionals also are helping to recruit participants. The research team is interviewing patient advisors about their experiences with medicines throughout the study.
Research methods at a glance
|Study Design||Randomized controlled trial|
|Population||Adults aged 60 years and older who have major depression that hasn’t responded to at least 2 different antidepressant medicines|
Phase 2: (Only for patients who remain depressed following Phase 1)
Primary: psychological well-being scores, depression scores, life-threatening illness, hospitalization, or need of medical care
Secondary: number of falls, injuries from falls, mental and physical functioning
|Timeframe||12-month follow-up for primary outcomes|
Related Journal Citations
Patient / Caregiver Partners
No information provided by awardee.
Other Stakeholder Partners
- Associates in Internal Medicine (AIM)
- New York Presbyterian Ambulatory Care Network
- UCLA Primary Care Practices and UCLA Behavioral Health Associates (BHA) in primary care clinics
- Harbor-UCLA Family Medicine Clinic
- UPMC Community Medicine, Inc. Primary Care Network
- Wash U Clinical Associates
- Wash U Physicians Network LIGHT (Rural Missouri)
- Family Care Health Centers STOP Program (Ontario)
- Integrated Mental Health Program Columbia Late Life Depression Clinic
- UCLA Department of Psychiatry
- LA County Department of Mental Health Services for Older Adults
- Greater Los Angeles VA Community Care Behavioral Health Organization (Medicare recipients)
- Psych Care Consultants, Wash U Psychiatry
- COMTREA Family Care Health Centers
- Toronto Area Health Science Network (TAHSN)
- Jürgen Unützer, MD, MPH, MA, University of Washington (chair)
- Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, MD, PhD, University of California Davis
- Michael Gitlin, MD, University of California Los Angeles Rochelle Henderson, PhD, Express Scripts
- Steve Miller, MD, Express Scripts
- Harold Alan Pincus, MD, Health and Aging Policy Fellows, Columbia University
- James Schuster, MD, MBA, Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
- Francis Solano, Jr., MD, FACPU, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
- Jonathan Tobin, PhD, FAHA, FACE is President and CEO, The Rockefeller University
- Kenneth Wells, MD, MPH, University of California Los Angeles, California Behavioral Health Center for Excellence