Pharmacogenetically Guided Escitalopram Treatment for Pediatric Anxiety Disorders: Protocol for a Double-Blind Randomized Trial

J Pers Med. 2021 Nov 12;11(11):1188. doi: 10.3390/jpm11111188.


Current pharmacologic treatments for pediatric anxiety disorders (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)) frequently use "one size fits all" dosing strategies based on average responses in clinical trials. However, for some SSRIs, including escitalopram, variation in CYP2C19 activity produces substantial variation in medication exposure (i.e., blood medication concentrations). This raises an important question: would refining current SSRI dosing strategies based on CYP2C19 phenotypes increase response and reduce side effect burden? To answer this question, we designed a randomized, double-blind trial of adolescents 12-17 years of age with generalized, separation, and/or social anxiety disorders (N = 132). Patients are randomized (1:1) to standard escitalopram dosing or dosing based on validated CYP2C19 phenotypes for escitalopram metabolism. Using this approach, we will determine whether pharmacogenetically-guided treatment-compared to standard dosing-produces faster and greater reduction in anxiety symptoms (i.e., response) and improves tolerability (e.g., decreased risk of treatment-related activation and weight gain). Secondarily, we will examine pharmacodynamic variants associated with treatment outcomes, thus enhancing clinicians' ability to predict response and tolerability. Ultimately, developing a strategy to optimize dosing for individual patients could accelerate response while decreasing side effects-an immediate benefit to patients and their families. Identifier: NCT04623099.

Keywords: CYP2C19; anxiety disorders; generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); pharmacogenetic; pharmacokinetic; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI); side effects; tolerability.

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