Köhler-Forsberg O, Stiglbauer V, Brasanac J, Chae WR, Wagener F, Zimbalski K, Jefsen OH, Liu S, Seals MR, Gamradt S, Correll CU, Gold SM, Otte C.

Importance: Every third to sixth patient with medical diseases receives antidepressants, but regulatory trials typically exclude comorbid medical diseases. Meta-analyses of antidepressants have shown small to medium effect sizes, but generalizability to clinical settings is unclear, where medical comorbidity is highly prevalent. Objective: To perform an umbrella systematic review of the meta-analytic evidence and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of antidepressant use in populations with medical diseases and comorbid depression. Data sources: PubMed and EMBASE were searched from inception until March 31, 2023, for systematic reviews with or without meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) examining the efficacy and safety of antidepressants for treatment or prevention of comorbid depression in any medical disease. Study selection: Meta-analyses of placebo- or active-controlled RCTs studying antidepressants for depression in individuals with medical diseases. Data extraction and synthesis: Data extraction and quality assessment using A Measurement Tool for the Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR-2 and AMSTAR-Content) were performed by pairs of independent reviewers following PRISMA guidelines. When several meta-analyses studied the same medical disease, the largest meta-analysis was included. Random-effects meta-analyses pooled data on the primary outcome (efficacy), key secondary outcomes (acceptability and tolerability), and additional secondary outcomes (response and remission). Main outcomes and measures: Antidepressant efficacy presented as standardized mean differences (SMDs) and tolerability (discontinuation for adverse effects) and acceptability (all-cause discontinuation) presented as risk ratios (RRs). Results: Of 6587 references, 176 systematic reviews were identified in 43 medical diseases. Altogether, 52 meta-analyses in 27 medical diseases were included in the evidence synthesis (mean [SD] AMSTAR-2 quality score, 9.3 [3.1], with a maximum possible of 16; mean [SD] AMSTAR-Content score, 2.4 [1.9], with a maximum possible of 9). Across medical diseases (23 meta-analyses), antidepressants improved depression vs placebo (SMD, 0.42 [95% CI, 0.30-0.54]; I2 = 76.5%), with the largest SMDs for myocardial infarction (SMD, 1.38 [95% CI, 0.82-1.93]), functional chest pain (SMD, 0.87 [95% CI, 0.08-1.67]), and coronary artery disease (SMD, 0.83 [95% CI, 0.32-1.33]) and the smallest for low back pain (SMD, 0.06 [95% CI, 0.17-0.39]) and traumatic brain injury (SMD, 0.08 [95% CI, -0.28 to 0.45]). Antidepressants showed worse acceptability (24 meta-analyses; RR, 1.17 [95% CI, 1.02-1.32]) and tolerability (18 meta-analyses; RR, 1.39 [95% CI, 1.13-1.64]) compared with placebo. Antidepressants led to higher rates of response (8 meta-analyses; RR, 1.54 [95% CI, 1.14-1.94]) and remission (6 meta-analyses; RR, 1.43 [95% CI, 1.25-1.61]) than placebo. Antidepressants more likely prevented depression than placebo (7 meta-analyses; RR, 0.43 [95% CI, 0.33-0.53]). Conclusions and relevance: The results of this umbrella systematic review of meta-analyses found that antidepressants are effective and safe in treating and preventing depression in patients with comorbid medical disease. However, few large, high-quality RCTs exist in most medical diseases.

JAMA Psychiatry. 2023 Dec 1;80(12):1196-1207.

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