Objective: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) typically begins early in life and has a chronic course. Despite the need for long-term treatment, the authors found no placebo-controlled studies that have examined the relapse-prevention efficacy of maintenance therapy.
Method: Patients who met criteria for response after 16 and 52 weeks of a single-blind trial of sertraline were randomly assigned to a 28-week double-blind trial of 50-200 mg/day of sertraline or placebo. Primary outcomes after the double-blind trial were full relapse, dropout due to relapse or insufficient response, or acute exacerbation of OCD symptoms.
Results: Of 649 patients at baseline, 232 completed 52 weeks of the single-blind trial and met response criteria. Among the 223 patients in the double-blind phase of the study, sertraline had significantly greater efficacy than placebo on two of three primary outcomes: dropout due to relapse or insufficient clinical response (9% versus 24%, respectively) and acute exacerbation of symptoms (12% versus 35%). Sertraline resulted in improvement in quality of life during the initial 52-week trial and continued improvement, significantly superior to placebo, during the subsequent 28-week double-blind trial. Long-term treatment with sertraline was well tolerated. Over the entire study period, less than 20% of the patients stopped treatment because of adverse events.
Conclusions: Sertraline demonstrated sustained efficacy among patients responding to treatment and was generally well tolerated during the 80-week study. During the study's last 28 weeks, sertraline demonstrated greater efficacy than placebo in preventing dropout due to relapse or insufficient clinical response and acute exacerbation of OCD symptoms.