Predicting response to fluoxetine in geriatric patients with major depression Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Health Facilities
  • Health Facility Environment
  • Identity Crisis
  • Mental Disorders


  • No consensus exists regarding whether early response to an antidepressant strongly predicts a good outcome, what is the criterion for early response, or when to measure it. We hypothesized that early response (> or = 20% decrease in HAM-d21) after any of weeks 1, 2, or 3 of fluoxetine treatment of major depression in geriatric outpatients would predict a favorable outcome by week 6 or an earlier endpoint accurately enough for clinical use. We also hypothesized that the week 1, 2, and 3 percent changes in 21-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D21) would predict the percent change at week 6 (or endpoint) accurately enough for clinical use. We enrolled 671 elderly outpatients with unipolar DSM-III-R major depression in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of fluoxetine, 20 mg/day. For analysis, fluoxetine-treated patients were randomly divided into a development set (N = 154) for a preliminary test of our criteria and a validation set (N = 181) to validate the development data set's results. Early responders at weeks 1, 2, and 3 were statistically significantly more likely to experience marked improvement or remission than those lacking early response. However, at week 3, this criterion correctly classified only about three-fourths of patients with regard to marked improvement and only about two-thirds with regard to remission. Moreover, about one-third of patients predicted to experience marked improvement and about three-fifths of those predicted to remit did not. The continuous variable, percent change in HAM-D21, did not produce predictive results of any greater clinical utility. We believe that the sensitivity, specificity, false-positive rate, false-negative rate, and kappa of outcome predictions all should be reported in future studies. Without a full set of descriptive statistics, clinicians can be misled by statistically significant results.

publication date

  • December 1995



  • Academic Article


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1097/00004714-199512000-00006

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 421

end page

  • 7


  • 15


  • 6