Objective: This study looks to compare the antidepressant efficacy and safety of a standardized extract of St John's wort with both placebo and fluoxetine.
Method: After a 1-week single-blind washout, patients with major depressive disorder diagnosed by Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition were randomized to 12 weeks of double-blind treatment with LI-160 St John's wort extract (900 mg/d), fluoxetine (20 mg/d), or placebo. The 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD-17) was the primary efficacy measure, and analysis of covariance was used to compare differences in end point HAMD-17 scores across the 3 treatment groups, treating the baseline HAMD-17 as the covariate.
Results: One hundred thirty-five patients (57% women; mean age, 37.3 ± 11.0; mean HAMD-17, 19.7 ± 3.2) were randomized to double-blind treatment and were included in the intent-to-treat analyses. Analysis of covariance analyses showed lower mean HAMD-17 scores at end point in the St John's wort group (n = 45; mean ± SD, 10.2 ± 6.6) compared with the fluoxetine group (n = 47; 13.3 ± 7.3; P < 0.03) and a trend toward a similar finding relative to the placebo group (n = 43; 12.6 ± 6.4; P = 0.096). There was also a trend toward higher rates of remission (HAMD-17 <8) in the St John's wort group (38%) compared with the fluoxetine group (30%) and the placebo group (21%). Overall, St John's wort appeared to be safe and well tolerated.
Conclusion: St John's wort was significantly more effective than fluoxetine and showed a trend toward superiority over placebo. A (25%) smaller than planned sample size is likely to account for the lack of statistical significance for the advantage (indicating a moderate effect size, d = 0.45) of St John's wort over placebo.