Since selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, that are recommended as first-line antidepressant psychopharmacotherapy for major depressive disorder (MDD), may not be the optimal choice for every patient, antidepressants with different modes of action exerting a distinct set of expectant effects, represent a valuable alternative. Despite the previously observed increased prescription rates of noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NaSSAs) - particularly mirtazapine - in Europe, the individual profiles of patients primarily prescribed NaSSAs in real-world settings have not been systematically investigated yet. In this secondary analysis based on a European, cross-sectional, naturalistic, multicenter study involving 1410 adult males and females with primary MDD, sociodemographic and clinical variables were compared between patients dispensed NaSSAs and those with alternative first-line antidepressants. Hereby, NaSSAs were administered in 8.6 % of the sample (mirtazapine: n = 114, mianserin: n = 7). We detected associations with older mean age, male sex, unemployment, as well as additional melancholic and catatonic features, inpatient treatment, lower mean daily-dosages of the administered antidepressants but higher rates of augmentation with low-potency antipsychotics, and greater mean reductions of depressive symptoms during their current major depressive episodes. Although the study design is unsuitable to draw any causal conclusions, our findings provide a realistic picture of patients eligible for first-line antidepressant treatment with NaSSAs, especially mirtazapine, and underscore the role of this AD substance class in severe MDD. Further, they may represent a promising basis for future systematic research focusing on precision diagnostics and treatment in MDD, that would ideally result in faster responses and better outcomes, especially in the so-called difficult-to-treat conditions including treatment resistant depression.
- Antidepressant treatment
- Major depressive disorder
- Noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant