Most patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) do not reach symptom remission. These patients with residual symptoms have worse function and worse prognosis than those who remit. Several augmentation and combination treatments are used to either increase the chances of achieving remission or to eliminate/minimize residual depressive symptoms. Evidence for these pharmacological approaches rests primarily on open, uncontrolled studies, and there are clearly not enough controlled studies. Clinicians should carefully weigh these different treatment options to increase their patients’ chances of achieving and sustaining remission from depression. This paper will review the pertinent studies and will propose a novel approach to improve practice involving the use of augmentation or combination strategies at the outset of initial treatment to primarily enhance the chances of remission through synergy and/or a broader spectrum of action. This novel approach could potentially enhance retention and/or increase remission rates since the lack of response with antidepressant monotherapy may lead many depressed patients with little or no benefit to drop out of treatment, precluding the subsequent use of augmentation or combination strategies altogether. In addition, the emergence of certain side-effects (e.g., agitation, insomnia) or the persistence of some initial baseline symptoms (e.g., anxiety, insomnia) may lead to premature discontinuation from monotherapy in the absence of concomitant use of augmenting pharmacological options targeting these symptoms.
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