Evidence-based pharmacotherapy of obsessive-compulsive disorder

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012 Sep;15(8):1173-91. doi: 10.1017/S1461145711001829. Epub 2012 Jan 9.


Pharmacological strategies for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) continue to develop apace but deficiencies remain. We present an updated literature review of the evidence supporting available strategies. We aim to answer key questions including: (1) What are the first-line treatments? (2) Does pharmacotherapy improve health-related quality of life? (3) How do we evaluate clinical response and relapse? (4) How long should treatment continue? (5) Can we predict treatment outcomes? (6) What is the management of treatment-refractory OCD? Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) remain the pharmacological treatment of choice for most patients and are associated with improved health-related quality of life. However, discontinuation is associated with relapse and loss of quality of life, implying treatment should continue long term. A substantial minority of patients fail to respond to SSRI. Such patients may respond to strategies such as dose elevation or adjunctive antipsychotic, although long-term trials validating the effectiveness and tolerability of these strategies are relatively lacking. Newer compounds targeting other neurotransmitter systems, such as glutamate, are undergoing evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors