Sertraline Treatment of Elderly Patients with Depression and Cognitive Impairment

Devanand, Devangere P.; Pelton, Gregory H.; Marston, Kristin; Camacho, Yesenia; Roose, Steven P.; Stern, Yaakov; Sackeim, Harold A.

Background There is little information on the efficacy and side effects of antidepressant treatment in elderly patients with combined depression and cognitive impairment without dementia (DEP-MCI), and it is unclear if cognitive performance improves with antidepressant response in these patients. Methods In 39 elderly DEP-MCI patients, changes in depression and cognitive impairment were evaluated with open sertraline treatment up to 200 mg/day for 12 weeks. Results Of the 26 completers, 17 were responders and nine were non-responders. Diagnostic subtype of depression was unrelated to response. ANCOVA on WAIS-R digit symbol percent change scores revealed a significant effect for responder status (F = 5.59, p < 0.03), and age (F = 0.24, p < 0.64) and education (F = 1.64, p < 0.22) were not significant covariates. From pre-trial to post-trial, responders improved in WAIS-R digit symbol percent change scores (Mean −10% SD 24) while non-responders declined (Mean 14% SD 18; t = 2.60, p < 0.02). Other neuropsychological measures were unrelated to response. Percent change in HRSD scores showed significant inverse correlations with percent change in several cognitive measures. Conclusions DEP-MCI patients showed moderate clinical response to sertraline treatment. When responders were compared to non-responders, cognitive improvement was limited to one measure of attention and executive function. Overall, there was little cognitive improvement with antidepressant treatment. The findings indirectly suggest that lack of improvement in cognition following treatment of depression in DEP-MCI patients may be associated with increased risk of meeting diagnostic criteria for dementia during follow-up.


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International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

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February 24, 2018