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INTRODUCTION: Clinical depression is usually treated in primary care with psychological therapies and antidepressant medication. However, when patients do not respond to at least two or more antidepressants within a depressive episode, they are considered to have treatment resistant depression (TRD). Previous small randomised controlled trials suggested that pramipexole, a dopamine D2/3 receptor agonist, may be effective for treating patients with unipolar and bipolar depression as it is known to influence motivational drive and reward processing. PAX-D will compare the effects of pramipexole vs placebo when added to current antidepressant medication for people with TRD. Additionally, PAX-D will investigate the mechanistic effect of pramipexole on reward sensitivity using a probabilistic decision-making task. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: PAX-D will assess effectiveness in the short- term (during the first 12 weeks) and in the longer-term (48 weeks) in patients with TRD from the UK. The primary outcome will be change in self-reported depressive symptoms from baseline to week 12 post-randomisation measured using the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology Self-Report (QIDS-SR16). Performance on the decision-making task will be measured at week 0, week 2 and week 12. Secondary outcomes include anhedonia, anxiety and health economic measures including quality of life, capability, well-being and costs. PAX-D will also assess the adverse effects of pramipexole including impulse control difficulties. DISCUSSION: Pramipexole is a promising augmentation agent for TRD and may be a useful addition to existing treatment regimes. PAX-D will assess its effectiveness and test for a potential mechanism of action in patients with TRD. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ISRCTN84666271.

Original publication




Journal article


Evid Based Ment Health

Publication Date





77 - 83


adult psychiatry, depression & mood disorders, psychiatry, Antidepressive Agents, Depression, Depressive Disorder, Major, Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant, Humans, Pramipexole, Quality of Life, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic