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Adli, Mazda; Wiethoff, Katja; Baghai, Thomas C.; Fisher, Robert; Seemüller, Florian; Laakmann, Gregor; Brieger, Peter; Cordes, Joachim; Malevani, Jaroslav; Laux, Gerd; Hauth, Iris; Möller, Hans-Jürgen; Kronmüller, Klaus-Thomas; Smolka, Michael N.; Schlattmann, Peter; Berger, Maximilian; Ricken, Roland; Stamm, Thomas J.; Heinz, Andreas; Bauer, Michael (2017): How Effective Is Algorithm-Guided Treatment for Depressed Inpatients? Results from the Randomized Controlled Multicenter German Algorithm Project 3 Trial. In: International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol. 20, No. 9: pp. 721-730
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Background: Treatment algorithms are considered as key to improve outcomes by enhancing the quality of care. This is the first randomized controlled study to evaluate the clinical effect of algorithm-guided treatment in inpatients with major depressive disorder. Methods: Inpatients, aged 18 to 70 years with major depressive disorder from 10 German psychiatric departments were randomized to 5 different treatment arms (from 2000 to 2005), 3 of which were standardized stepwise drug treatment algorithms (ALGO). The fourth arm proposed medications and provided less specific recommendations based on a computerized documentation and expert system (CDES), the fifth arm received treatment as usual (TAU). ALGO included 3 different second-step strategies: lithium augmentation (ALGO LA), antidepressant dose-escalation (ALGO DE), and switch to a different antidepressant (ALGO SW). Time to remission (21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale <= 9) was the primary outcome. Results: Time to remission was significantly shorter for ALGO DE (n = 91) compared with both TAU (n = 84) (HR = 1.67;P =.014) and CDES (n = 79) (HR = 1.59;P = .031) and ALGO SW (n = 89) compared with both TAU (HR = 1.64;P = .018) and CDES (HR = 1.56;P = .038). For both ALGO LA (n = 86) and ALGO DE, fewer antidepressant medications were needed to achieve remission than for CDES or TAU (P < .001). Remission rates at discharge differed across groups;ALGO DE had the highest (89.2%) and TAU the lowest rates (66.2%). Conclusions: A highly structured algorithm-guided treatment is associated with shorter times and fewer medication changes to achieve remission with depressed inpatients than treatment as usual or computerized medication choice guidance.