Context: The serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the treatment of choice for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder; however, empirical support for this assertion has been weaker for children and adolescents than for adults.
Objective: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline hydrochloride in children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Patients: One hundred eighty-seven patients: 107 children aged 6 to 12 years and 80 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years randomized to receive either sertraline (53 children, 39 adolescents) or placebo (54 children, 41 adolescents).
Setting: Twelve US academic and community clinics with experience conducting randomized controlled trials.
Intervention: Sertraline hydrochloride was titrated to a maximum of 200 mg/d during the first 4 weeks of double-blind therapy, after which patients continued to receive this dosage of medication for 8 more weeks. Control patients received placebo.
Main outcome measures: The Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (CY-BOCS), the National Institute of Mental Health Global Obsessive Compulsive Scale (NIMH GOCS), and the NIMH Clinical Global Impressions of Severity of Illness (CGI-S) and Improvement (CGI-I) rating scales.
Results: In intent-to-treat analyses, patients treated with sertraline showed significantly greater improvement than did placebo-treated patients on the CY-BOCS (adjusted mean, -6.8vs -3.4, respectively; P=.005), the NIMH GOCS (-2.2 vs -1.3, respectively; P=.02), and the CGI-I (2.7 vs 3.3, respectively; P=.002) scales. Significant differences in efficacy between sertraline and placebo emerged at week 3 and persisted for the duration of the study. Based on CGI-I ratings at end point, 42% of patients receiving sertraline and 26% of patients receiving placebo were very much or much improved. Neither age nor sex predicted response to treatment. The incidence of insomnia, nausea, agitation, and tremor were significantly greater in patients receiving sertraline; 12 (13%) of 92 sertraline-treated patients and 3 (3.2%) of 95 placebo-treated patients discontinued prematurely because of adverse medical events (P=.02). No clinically meaningful abnormalities were apparent on vital sign determinations, laboratory findings, or electrocardiographic measurements.
Conclusion: Sertraline appears to be a safe and effective short-term treatment for children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder.