Depression, health-related quality of life, and medical cost outcomes of receiving recommended levels of antidepressant treatment

Dennis A. Revicki, Gregory E. Simon, Kitty Chan, Wayne Katon, John Heiligenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. We evaluated depression severity, health-related quality of life (HRQL), and medical cost outcomes of primary care patients receiving recommended and less-than-recommended levels of antidepressant treatment. METHODS. We performed a secondary analysis of clinical trial data from primary care clinics in a staff-model managed care Organization. The trial included patients with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised (DSM-III-R) criteria for major depression who were starting antidepressant treatment. The primary outcomes measures used were the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), Hopkins Symptom Checklist depression scores, the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) mental and physical component summary scores, and the total outpatient and in patient medical costs. RESULTS. Of 358 patients starting antidepressant treatment, 195 (54.5%) received doses recommended by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research for 90 days or more. Mean HDRS score decreased from 14.1 to 8.8 in patients receiving less-than-recommended treatment and decreased from 13.8 to 8.9 in patients with minimum recommended treatment (P = .761). No significant differences in improvement of HRQL outcomes during 6 months were observed between patients receiving recommended or less-than-recommended antidepressant therapy. Mean total medical costs over 6 months for patients taking the recommended levels of antidepressant treatment were $1872±140 compared with $2622±413 for patients taking less- than-recommended treatment (P = .032). The differences in total medical costs were attributable to significantly lower nonmental health-related inpatient costs in the recommended antidepressant treatment group ($104 vs $785, P = .004). CONCLUSIONS. Patients receiving minimum recommended levels of antidepressant therapy for 3 months showed improvement in depression severity and HRQL comparable with patients receiving less-than-recommended treatment. Patients receiving minimum recommended treatment had lower total costs and nonmental health-related inpatient costs. Antidepressant treatment in primary care patients may have the greatest impact on the frequency of health care visits and on costs for medical conditions and impairments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-452
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998


  • Antidepressants
  • Depression
  • Health care costs
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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