Venlafaxine in the Treatment of Dysthymia: An Open-Label Study

Background: Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of antidepressant medications in the treatment of dysthymia, or chronic mild depression. Venlafaxine blocks reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine and may produce a more complete antidepressant response than do single-mechanism selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The purpose of this open-label study was to provide preliminary data on the tolerability and effectiveness of venlafaxine for patients with dysthymia.

Method: Twenty-two dysthymic subjects (DSM-III-R criteria) were enrolled in this 10-week, open-label trial, and 5 dropped out prior to their second visit. Seventeen subjects (77.3%) received more than 1 week of medication.

Results: Of these 17 subjects, 13 (76.5%) were treatment responders. Results of paired sample t tests were highly significant, indicating that, on average, there was significant improvement on all measures of symptomatology and functioning, with mean ± SD scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression decreasing from 20.95 ± 6.50 at baseline to 6.06 ± 5.49 at week 10. The mean ± SD final dose was 178.68 ± 70.80 mg/day. Side effects were reported by 17 (85%) of the 20 subjects for whom tolerability was assessed (the most common were fatigue, dry mouth, and nausea); 5 (22.7%) of 22 patients discontinued treatment because of side effects, primarily nausea (N = 3).

Conclusion: These findings suggest the benefit of venlafaxine in the treatment of chronic depression and the need for more rigorous studies.

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(12):845-849