Treatment-Resistant Depression in Portugal: Perspective From Psychiatry Experts

João M. Bessa, Serafim Carvalho, Inês B. Cunha, Milene Fernandes, Ana Matos-Pires, Rui Neves, Albino J. Oliveira-Maia, Susana Santos, Vítor Santos

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Guidance about treatment-resistant depression (TRD) in Portugal is very limited, even though depression prevalence is among the highest in European countries. A questionnaire was conducted, followed by two advisory boards with seven Portuguese psychiatry experts, to characterize and discuss MDD and TRD epidemiology, diagnosis, patient journey, treatment options, and unmet clinical needs. Consensus was reached on the main issues. In daily practice, TRD can be defined as moderate to severe MDD episodes with insufficient clinical improvement after two antidepressant treatments, taken in adequate doses and duration. TRD diagnosis and treatment are mostly decided by psychiatrists at public hospitals. Treatment type and duration must be adjusted to characteristics of the patient and the depressive episode, including symptoms, number of previous episodes, comorbidities, and previous treatment response and side effects. The most relevant objectives of TRD treatment are reaching response and remission, prevention of suicide, and improvement of quality of life, functionality, and wellbeing. Regarding pharmacotherapy, antidepressant switch occurs more frequently with non-response, while optimization, combination, and augmentation are considered for patients with partial response. Psychotherapy should be considered in parallel to pharmacological treatment. Brain stimulation techniques are underused. Lifelong treatment is required for recurrent or more chronic TRD episodes, but patient adherence is also poorer in these cases. In Portugal, TRD management is limited by lack of access to specialist care and to many treatment options. These aspects highlight that conventional pharmacotherapy does not lead to remission in many patients and that optimization strategies are frequently necessary to achieve satisfactory treatment outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number824919
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2022


  • expert opinion
  • major depressive disorder
  • patient journey
  • Portugal
  • treatment-resistant depression


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