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Review: short-term benefit of escitalopram versus citalopram for depression uncertain, but big difference in French health insurance costs

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Question: What is the efficacy of citalopram compared with escitalopram (its chiral switch form) in people with depression, and what is the impact on health insurance costs?

Outcomes: Efficacy (response to treatment defined as 50% decrease in depression score on the Montgomery-Åsberg depression rating scale or Hamilton Scale) at 8 weeks (or closest time point); treatment acceptability (proportion of patients not dropping out during treatment); health insurance costs.


Design: Systematic review with meta-analysis.

Data sources: A systematic review of reviews and randomised controlled trials (RCTS) was carried out; see online notes for details. A representative sample of the French National Health Insurance Inter-regime Information System (SNIIR-AM) was searched for reimbursement costs between January 2003 and December 2010 (generic citalopram introduced December 2003, and escitalopram introduced in June 2005).

Study selection and analysis: RCTs assessing the efficacy of citalopram or escitalopram as a head-to-head comparison or versus placebo in adults with major depression were selected. Random effects meta-analyses were performed using STATA software. Separate meta-analyses were performed for head-to-head comparisons and indirect comparisons using placebo controlled trials. The monthly number of reimbursements for citalopram, generic citalopram and escitalopram were calculated in Defined …

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