Primary care management of major depression in patients aged > or =55 years: outcome of a randomised clinical trial

H.W.J. van Marwijk, H.J. Ader, M. de Haan, A.T.F. Beekman

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Late-life depression is associated with chronic illness, disability, and a poor prognosis. Primary care management may be in need of improvement.

To compare the effects of an intervention programme that aims to improve the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of depression in patients aged =55 years with the effects of usual care.

Design of study
Cluster randomised controlled trial.

General practices in the Netherlands.

Trained GPs performed the intervention and their practice assistants conducted the screenings. Patients were screened with the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15) and given a consultation with the GP who diagnosed depression with the mood module of the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD). Antidepressant treatment was proposed. Primary outcomes were measured with the Montgomery Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MÅDRS). Trained independent research assistants performed independent evaluations in both arms.

Eighteen practices (23 GPs) were allocated to the intervention and 16 practices (20 GPs) to usual care. From June 2000 to September 2002, 3937 patients were screened; 579 patients had a positive score on the GDS-15, 178 had major depression, of whom 145 participated in the trial. MÅDRS scores for the intervention group dropped from 21.66 at baseline to 9.23 at 6 months, and the usual care group from 20.94 at baseline to 11.45 at 6 months. MÅDRS scores decreased during the year in both arms. For the intervention group, these scores increased between 6 and 12 months.

The programme resulted in lower MÅDRS scores in the intervention group than in the usual care group, but only at the end of the intervention, at 6 months after baseline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)680-686
JournalBritish journal of general practice
Issue number555
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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