Background: Most studies report a poor response of psychotic depressed patients to treatment with a tricyclic antidepressant alone compared to combined treatment with an antipsychotic preparation and compared to non-psychotic depressed patients. However, the issue of optimal treatment of psychotic depressed patients has not been resolved as yet. Previously, we reported a significant difference in response to mirtazapine compared to imipramine in a randomised, double-blind, fixed-blood-level study with in-patients with major depression. In the current study we focus on the treatment response to imipramine in a group of patients with psychotic depression and compare this to patients who manifest no psychotic features. Our aim in presenting these findings was to contribute to the discussion on the optimal treatment of psychotic depressed patients. Methods: Fifty-two patients with a unipolar major depression (DSM-IIIR), comprising 15 patients with mood-congruent psychotic features and 37 patients with no psychotic features, were commenced on treatment with imipramine after a drug-free and placebo-washout period of 7 days. The dose of imipramine was adjusted for all patients to a predetermined blood level. The Hamilton (HRSD) and Montgomery-Asberg (MADRS) Depression Rating Scales were used to evaluate treatment response. Results: Of the 45 patients who completed the study, nine of the 13 psychotic patients (69.2%) and 14 of the 32 non-psychotic patients (43.8%) responded to treatment. The patients with psychotic features demonstrated a lower mean final HRSD score, together with a greater fall in MADRS score over time, compared to the non-psychotic group. Both these findings remained statistically significant after controlling for a number of possible confounding factors. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that, in this group of patients with mood-congruent psychotic depression, imipramine used on its own together with strict control of serum drug levels produced a high treatment response rate of 70%. Clinical implications: If replicated, these findings suggest that imipramine with control of blood levels of medication may be a useful first-line treatment for depressed patients with mood-congruent psychotic features. Limitations: Our sample size was modest. This fact may caution against generalisation of the results.

Antidepressant effect, Fixed-blood-level monitoring, Imipramine, Major depression with psychotic features, Study design,
Journal of Affective Disorders
Department of Psychiatry

Bruijn, J.A, Moleman, P, Mulder, P.G.H, & van den Broek, W.W. (2001). Treatment of mood-congruent psychotic depression with imipramine. Journal of Affective Disorders, 66(2-3), 165–174. doi:10.1016/S0165-0327(00)00296-2