Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Aripiprazole augmentation is proven effective for antidepressant-refractory depression, but its licensed dose range is wide and optimal dosage remains unclear. AIMS: To find the optimal dosage of aripiprazole augmentation. METHOD: Multiple electronic databases were searched (from inception to 16 February 2021) to identify all assessor-masked randomised controlled trials evaluating aripiprazole augmentation therapy in adults (≥18 years old, both genders) with major depressive disorder showing inadequate response to at least one antidepressant treatment. A random-effects, one-stage dose-effect meta-analysis with restricted cubic splines was conducted. Outcomes were efficacy (treatment response: ≥50% reduction in depression severity), tolerability (drop-out due to adverse effects) and acceptability (drop-out for any reason) after 8 weeks of treatment (range 4-12 weeks). RESULTS: Ten studies met the inclusion criteria. All were individually randomised, placebo-controlled, multi-centre, parallel studies including 2625 participants in total. The maximum target dose-efficacy curve showed an increase up to doses between 2 mg (odds ratio OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.15-1.85) and 5 mg (OR = 1.93, 95% CI 1.33-2.81), and then a non-increasing trend through the higher licensed doses up to 20 mg (OR = 1.90, 95% CI 1.52-2.37). Tolerability showed a similar trend with greater uncertainty. Acceptability showed no significant difference through the examined dose range. Certainty of evidence was low to moderate. CONCLUSIONS: Low-dose aripiprazole as augmentation treatment might achieve the optimal balance between efficacy, tolerability and acceptability in the acute treatment of antidepressant-refractory depression. However, the small number of included studies and the overall moderate to high risk of bias seriously compromise the reliability of the results. Further research is required to investigate the benefits of low versus high dose.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date



1 - 8


Depressive disorders, antidepressants, antipsychotics, dose-response meta-analysis, randomized controlled trial