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BACKGROUND: This study aimed to examine the efficacy of combining paroxetine and mirtazapine v. switching to mirtazapine, for patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who have had an insufficient response to SSRI monotherapy (paroxetine) after the first 2 weeks of treatment. METHODS: This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, three-arm study recruited participants from five hospitals in China. Eligible participants were aged 18-60 years with MDD of at least moderate severity. Participants received paroxetine during a 2-week open-label phase and patients who had not achieved early improvement were randomized to paroxetine, mirtazapine or paroxetine combined with mirtazapine for 6 weeks. The primary outcome was improvement on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression 17-item (HAMD-17) scores 6 weeks after randomization. RESULTS: A total of 204 patients who showed early non-response to paroxetine monotherapy were randomly assigned to receive either mirtazapine and placebo (n = 68), paroxetine and placebo (n = 68) or mirtazapine and paroxetine (n = 68), with 164 patients completing the outcome assessment. At week 8, the least squares (LS) mean change of HAMD-17 scores did not significantly differ among the three groups, (12.98 points) in the mirtazapine group, (12.50 points) in the paroxetine group and (13.27 points) in the mirtazapine plus paroxetine combination group. Participants in the paroxetine monotherapy group were least likely to experience adverse effects. CONCLUSIONS: After 8 weeks follow-up, paroxetine monotherapy, mirtazapine monotherapy and paroxetine/mirtazapine combination therapy were equally effective in non-improvers at 2 weeks. The results of this trial do not support a recommendation to routinely offer additional treatment or a switch in treatment strategies for MDD patients who do not show early improvement after 2 weeks of antidepressant treatment.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Med

Publication Date





1166 - 1174


Antidepressant, MDD, RCT, early non-response, Adolescent, Adult, Antidepressive Agents, Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation, China, Depressive Disorder, Major, Double-Blind Method, Drug Therapy, Combination, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Mirtazapine, Paroxetine, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors, Severity of Illness Index, Treatment Outcome, Young Adult