Objective: To compare fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, with nifedipine as treatment for primary or secondary Raynaud's phenomenon.
Methods: Twenty-six patients with primary and 27 patients with secondary Raynaud's phenomenon were assigned randomly to receive 6 weeks of treatment with fluoxetine (20 mg daily) or nifedipine (40 mg daily). Following a 2-week washout period, each group was crossed over to the other treatment arm. The primary outcome variable was the frequency of attacks of Raynaud's phenomenon. Self-reported attack severity, thermographic recovery from cold challenge and plasma levels of von Willebrand factor and soluble P-selectin were also measured.
Results: There was a reduction in attack frequency and severity of Raynaud's phenomenon in patients treated with either fluoxetine or nifedipine, but the effect was statistically significant only in the fluoxetine-treated group (P=0.0002 for attack severity and P=0.003 for attack frequency). Subgroup analysis showed that the greatest response was seen in females and in patients with primary Raynaud's phenomenon. A significant improvement in the thermographic response to cold challenge was also seen in female patients with primary Raynaud's phenomenon treated with fluoxetine but not in those treated with nifedipine. There was no significant treatment effect on von Willebrand factor or soluble P-selectin. No significant adverse effects occurred in the fluoxetine-treated group.
Conclusion: This pilot study confirms the tolerability of fluoxetine and suggests that it would be effective as a novel treatment for Raynaud's phenomenon. Larger and placebo-controlled trials are warranted to assess fluoxetine's therapeutic potential further in this vasospastic condition.