Depression is common in primary care and it is associated with marked personal, social and economic morbidity, and creates significant demands on service providers in terms of workload. Treatment is predominantly pharmaceutical or psychological. Fluoxetine, the first of a group of antidepressant (AD) agents known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), has been studied in many randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in comparison with tricyclic (TCA), heterocyclic and related ADs, and other SSRIs. These comparative studies provided contrasting findings. In addition, systematic reviews of RCTs have always considered the SSRIs as a group, and evidence applicable to this group of drugs might not be applicable to fluoxetine alone. The present systematic review assessed the efficacy and tolerability profile of fluoxetine in comparison with TCAs, SSRIs and newer agents.