Efficacy and safety of antidepressant augmentation of continued antipsychotic treatment in patients with schizophrenia

B Galling, J A Vernon, A K Pagsberg, A Wadhwa, E Grudnikoff, A J Seidman, M Tsoy-Podosenin, M Poyurovsky, J M Kane, C U Correll

54 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of antidepressant augmentation of antipsychotics in schizophrenia.

METHODS: Systematic literature search (PubMed/MEDLINE/PsycINFO/Cochrane Library) from database inception until 10/10/2017 for randomized, double-blind, efficacy-focused trials comparing adjunctive antidepressants vs. placebo in schizophrenia.

RESULTS: In a random-effects meta-analysis (studies = 42, n = 1934, duration = 10.1 ± 8.1 weeks), antidepressant augmentation outperformed placebo regarding total symptom reduction [standardized mean difference (SMD) = -0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -0.57 to -0.17, P < 0.001], driven by negative (SMD = -0.25, 95% CI = -0.44-0.06, P = 0.010), but not positive (P = 0.190) or general (P = 0.089) symptom reduction. Superiority regarding negative symptoms was confirmed in studies augmenting first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs) (SMD = -0.42, 95% CI = -0.77, -0.07, P = 0.019), but not second-generation antipsychotics (P = 0.144). Uniquely, superiority in total symptom reduction by NaSSAs (SMD = -0.71, 95% CI = -1.21, -0.20, P = 0.006) was not driven by negative (P = 0.438), but by positive symptom reduction (SMD = -0.43, 95% CI = -0.77, -0.09, P = 0.012). Antidepressants did not improve depressive symptoms more than placebo (P = 0.185). Except for more dry mouth [risk ratio (RR) = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.04-2.36, P = 0.03], antidepressant augmentation was not associated with more adverse events or all-cause/specific-cause discontinuation.

CONCLUSIONS: For schizophrenia patients on stable antipsychotic treatment, adjunctive antidepressants are effective for total and particularly negative symptom reduction. However, effects are small-to-medium, differ across antidepressants, and negative symptom improvement seems restricted to the augmentation of FGAs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)187-205
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Journal Article


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