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A Placebo-Controlled Comparison of Lithium and Triiodothyronine Augmentation of Tricyclic Antidepressants in Unipolar Refractory Depression

Russell T. Joffe, MD; William Singer, MD; Anthony J. Levitt, MD; Cathy MacDonald, RN
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993;50(5):387-393. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820170065008.
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Objective:  To directly compare the efficacy of lithium carbonate and liothyronine sodium (triiodothyronine) in the augmentation of therapeutic response in antidepressant nonresponders.

Design:  A randomized, double-blind, placebocontrolled study of 2 weeks' duration.

Setting:  The Mood Disorders Program, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and the University of Toronto, Ontario.

Patients:  Fifty outpatients, males and females, with unipolar, nonpsychotic major depression who had failed to respond to treatment with desipramine hydrochloride or imipramine hydrochloride.

Results:  Both liothyronine and lithium were more ef- fective than placebo in reducing scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. However, the antidepressant augmenting effect of these two compounds did not differ from each other. When response was defined as a 50% or more reduction in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression scores and a final score less than 10, we found that 10 of 17 subjects responded to liothyronine, nine of 17 responded to lithium and three of 16 responded to placebo.

Conclusions:  Our study suggests that both lithium and liothyronine may be considered as alternatives in augmenting antidepressant response in patients who do not respond to treatment with a tricyclic antidepressant.

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