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Secure Messaging Intervention in Patients Starting New Antidepressant to Promote Adherence: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.

Turvey C, Fuhrmeister L, Klein D, McCoy K, Moeckli J, Stewart Steffensmeier KR, Suiter N, Van Tiem J. Secure Messaging Intervention in Patients Starting New Antidepressant to Promote Adherence: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR formative research. 2023 Dec 8; 7:e51277.

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BACKGROUND: There are a range of effective pharmacological and behavioral treatments for depression. However, approximately one-third of patients discontinue antidepressants within the first month of treatment and 44% discontinue them by the third month of treatment. The major reasons reported for discontinuation were side effect burden, patients experiencing that the medications were not working, and patients wanting to resolve their depression without using medication. OBJECTIVE: This study tested the acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary effectiveness of an SMS messaging intervention designed to improve antidepressant adherence and depression outcomes in veterans. The intervention specifically targeted the key reasons for antidepressant discontinuation. For example, the secure message included reminders that it can take up to 6 weeks for an antidepressant to work, or prompts to call their provider should the side effect burden become significant. METHODS: This pilot was a 3-armed randomized controlled trial of 53 veterans undergoing depression treatment at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Veterans starting a new antidepressant were randomized to secure messaging only (SM-Only), secure messaging with coaching (SM+Coach), or attention control (AC) groups. The intervention lasted 12 weeks with follow-up assessments of key outcomes at 6 and 12-weeks. This included a measure of antidepressant adherence, depressive symptom severity, and side effect burden. RESULTS: The 2 active interventions (SM-Only and SM+Coach) demonstrated small to moderate effect sizes (ESs) in improving antidepressant adherence and reducing side effect burden. They did not appear to reduce the depressive symptom burden any more than in the AC arm. Veteran participants in the SM arms demonstrated improved medication adherence from baseline to 12 weeks on the Medication Adherence Rating Scale compared with those in the AC arm, who had a decline in adherence (SM-Only: ES = 0.09; P = .19; SM+Coach: ES = 0.85; P = .002). Depression scores on the 9-Item Patient Health Questionnaire decreased for all 3 treatment arms, although the decline was slightly larger for the SM-Only (ES = 0.32) and the SM+Coach (ES = 0.24) arms when compared with the AC arm. The 2 intervention arms indicated a decrease in side effects on the Frequency, Intensity, and Burden of Side Effects Ratings, whereas the side effect burden for the AC arm increased. These differences indicated moderate ES (SM-Only vs AC: ES = 0.40; P = .07; SM+Coach: ES = 0.54; P = .07). CONCLUSIONS: A secure messaging program targeting specific reasons for antidepressant discontinuation had small-to-moderate ES in improving medication adherence. Consistent with prior research, the intervention that included brief synchronic meetings with a coach appeared to have a greater benefit than the SMS-alone intervention. Veterans consistently engaged with the SMS messaging in both treatment arms throughout the study period. They additionally provided feedback on which texts were most helpful, tending to prefer messages providing overall encouragement rather than specific wellness recommendations. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT03930849;

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