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Psychotic depression (PD) is a severe mental disorder leading to functional disability and high risk of suicide, but very little is known about the comparative effectiveness of medications used in its maintenance treatment. The objective of this study was to investigate the comparative effectiveness of specific antipsychotics and antidepressants, and their combinations, on the risk of psychiatric hospitalization among persons with PD in routine care. Persons aged 16-65 years with a first-time diagnosis of PD were identified from Finnish (years 2000-2018) and Swedish (years 2006-2021) nationwide registers of inpatient care, specialized outpatient care, sickness absence, and disability pension. The main exposures were specific antipsychotics and antidepressants, and the main outcome measure was psychiatric hospitalization as a marker of severe relapse. The risk of hospitalization associated with periods of use vs. non-use of medications (expressed as adjusted hazard ratio, aHR) was assessed by a within-individual design, using each individual as his/her own control, and analyzed with stratified Cox models. The two national cohorts were first analyzed separately, and then combined using a fixed-effect meta-analysis. The Finnish cohort included 19,330 persons (mean age: 39.8±14.7 years; 57.9% women) and the Swedish cohort 13,684 persons (mean age: 41.3±14.0 years; 53.5% women). Individual antidepressants associated with a decreased risk of relapse vs. non-use of antidepressants were bupropion (aHR=0.73, 95% CI: 0.63-0.85), vortioxetine (aHR=0.78, 95% CI: 0.63-0.96) and venlafaxine (aHR=0.92, 95% CI: 0.86-0.98). Any long-acting injectable antipsychotic (LAI) (aHR=0.60, 95% CI: 0.45-0.80) and clozapine (aHR=0.72, 95% CI: 0.57-0.91) were associated with a decreased risk of relapse vs. non-use of antipsychotics. Among monotherapies, only vortioxetine (aHR=0.67, 95% CI: 0.47-0.95) and bupropion (aHR=0.71, 95% CI: 0.56-0.89) were associated with a significantly decreased risk of relapse vs. non-use of both antidepressants and antipsychotics. In an exploratory analysis of antidepressant-antipsychotic combinations, a decreased relapse risk was found for amitriptyline-olanzapine (aHR=0.45, 95% CI: 0.28-0.71), sertraline-quetiapine (aHR=0.79, 95% CI: 0.67-0.93) and venlafaxine-quetiapine (aHR=0.82, 95% CI: 0.73-0.91) vs. non-use of antidepressants and antipsychotics. Benzodiazepines and related drugs (aHR=1.29, 95% CI: 1.24-1.34) and mirtazapine (aHR=1.17, 95% CI: 1.07-1.29) were associated with an increased risk of relapse. These data indicate that, in the maintenance treatment of PD, bupropion, vortioxetine, venlafaxine, any LAI, clozapine, and only few specific antidepressant-antipsychotic combinations are associated with a decreased risk of relapse. These findings challenge the current recommendation by treatment guidelines to combine an antipsychotic with an antidepressant (without further specification) as standard treatment in PD.

Original publication




Journal article


World Psychiatry

Publication Date





276 - 284


LAIs, Psychotic depression, antidepressants, antidepressant‐antipsychotic combinations, antipsychotics, bupropion, clozapine, maintenance treatment, vortioxetine