Efficacy of sertraline in the long-term treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder

Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Jan;159(1):88-95. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.159.1.88.


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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Quality of Life
  • Recurrence
  • Sertraline / administration & dosage*
  • Sertraline / adverse effects
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Sertraline