Background: Major depression with high levels of anxiety (anxious depression) is a common subtype of depression associated with greater psychosocial impairment and poorer response to antidepressant treatment. It is unclear whether in this population there are differences in efficacy or tolerability across selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. For this reason, using head-to-head acute treatment comparison, we compared efficacy and tolerability of fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine among depressed patients with high levels of anxiety.
Methods: Patients (N = 108) with DSM-IV major depression and high levels of anxiety (a HAM-D-Anxiety/Somatization Factor score > or =7) were randomized to fluoxetine, sertraline, or paroxetine treatment in a double-blind fashion. Changes in overall depression and anxiety were assessed.
Results: Patients demonstrated similar baseline-to-endpoint improvement in HAM-D-17 and HAM-D-Anxiety/Somatization Factor scores. Patients also demonstrated similar change-over-time improvement in HAM-D-17 and HAM-D-Anxiety/Somatization Factor scores, except at week one where fluoxetine- and sertraline-treated patients had statistically significantly greater improvement than paroxetine-treated patients in the HAM-D-Anxiety/Somatization Factor score. There were no significant differences across treatments in percentages of patients with substantial emergence, any worsening, or improvement at endpoint in individual HAM-D Items 9 (agitation), 10 (psychic anxiety), and 11 (somatic anxiety). Overall, all treatments were well tolerated.
Conclusion: These data showed no significant differences in efficacy and tolerability of fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine in patients with high levels of baseline anxiety symptoms during the acute treatment of major depression. Each treatment was similarly effective in improving depression in this subtype of patients with anxious depression.