Cambridge University Press, Bjpsych Open, 2(7), 2021
Background Antidepressant medication and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are both recommended interventions in depression treatment guidelines based on literature reviews and meta-analyses. However, ‘conventional’ meta-analyses comparing their efficacy are limited by their reliance on reported study-level information and a narrow focus on depression outcome measures assessed at treatment completion. Individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis, considered the gold standard in evidence synthesis, can improve the quality of the analyses when compared with conventional meta-analysis. Aims We describe the protocol for a systematic review and IPD meta-analysis comparing the efficacy of antidepressants and IPT for adult acute-phase depression across a range of outcome measures, including depressive symptom severity as well as functioning and well-being, at both post-treatment and follow-up (PROSPERO: CRD42020219891). Method We will conduct a systematic literature search in PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase and the Cochrane Library to identify randomised clinical trials comparing antidepressants and IPT in the acute-phase treatment of adults with depression. We will invite the authors of these studies to share the participant-level data of their trials. One-stage IPD meta-analyses will be conducted using mixed-effects models to assess treatment effects at post-treatment and follow-up for all outcome measures that are assessed in at least two studies. Conclusions This will be the first IPD meta-analysis examining antidepressants versus IPT efficacy. This study has the potential to enhance our knowledge of depression treatment by comparing the short- and long-term effects of two widely used interventions across a range of outcome measures using state-of-the-art statistical techniques.