Background: Drugs that selectively inhibit serotonin reuptake are effective treatments for adults with mood and anxiety disorders, but limited data are available on the safety and efficacy of serotonin-reuptake inhibitors in children with anxiety disorders.
Methods: We studied 128 children who were 6 to 17 years of age; who met the criteria for social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder; and who had received psychological treatment for three weeks without improvement. The children were randomly assigned to receive fluvoxamine (at a maximum of 300 mg per day) or placebo for eight weeks and were evaluated with rating scales designed to assess the degree of anxiety and impairment.
Results: Children in the fluvoxamine group had a mean (+/-SD) decrease of 9.7+/-6.9 points in symptoms of anxiety on the Pediatric Anxiety Rating Scale (range of possible scores, 0 to 25, with higher scores indicating greater anxiety), as compared with a decrease of 3.1+/-4.8 points among children in the placebo group (P<0.001). On the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale, 48 of 63 children in the fluvoxamine group (76 percent) responded to the treatment, as indicated by a score of less than 4, as compared with 19 of 65 children in the placebo group (29 percent, P<0.001). Five children in the fluvoxamine group (8 percent) discontinued treatment because of adverse events, as compared with one child in the placebo group (2 percent).
Conclusions: Fluvoxamine is an effective treatment for children and adolescents with social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder.