Despite high rates of relapse and recurrence, few primary care patients with recurrent or chronic depression are receiving continuation and maintenance-phase treatment. We hypothesized that a relapse prevention intervention would improve adherence to antidepressant medication and improve depression outcomes in high-risk patients compared with usual primary care.
Three hundred eighty-six patients with recurrent major depression or dysthymia who had largely recovered after 8 weeks of antidepressant treatment by their primary care physicians were randomized to a relapse prevention program (n = 194) or usual primary care (n = 192). Patients in the intervention group received 2 primary care visits with a depression specialist and 3 telephone visits over a 1-year period aimed at enhancing adherence to antidepressant medication, recognition of prodromal symptoms, monitoring of symptoms, and development of a written relapse prevention plan. Follow-up assessments were completed at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months by a telephone survey team blinded to randomization status.
Those in the intervention group had significantly greater adherence to adequate dosage of antidepressant medication for 90 days or more within the first and second 6-month periods and were significantly more likely to refill medication prescriptions during the 12-month follow-up compared with usual care controls. Intervention patients had significantly fewer depressive symptoms, but not fewer episodes of relapse/recurrence over the 12-month follow-up period.
A relapse prevention program targeted to primary care patients with a high risk of relapse/recurrence who had largely recovered after antidepressant treatment significantly improved antidepressant adherence and depressive symptom outcomes.