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Randomized, Double-Blind Comparison of Venlafaxine and Sertraline in Outpatients With Major Depressive Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(2):95-100

Background: This 8-week, double-blind, randomized trial compared the efficacy and tolerability of venlafaxine and sertraline in patients with major depression.

Method: Outpatients (N = 147) with DSM-IV major depressive disorder and a baseline 21-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) score of at least 18 were randomly assigned to venlafaxine, 37.5 mg b.i.d., or sertraline, 50 mg once daily. From day 15, the doses could be increased to venlafaxine, 75 mg b.i.d., or sertraline, 50 mg b.i.d. Efficacy was assessed with the 21-item HAM-D, the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and the Clinical Global Impressions scale (CGI) using a modified intent-to-treat analysis.

Results: No significant differences were noted between treatments for mean HAM-D, MADRS, or CGI scores. At week 8, the HAM-D response rate was 83% with venlafaxine (N = 75) and 68% with sertraline (N = 72) (p = .05). A HAM-D score less than 10 was recorded in 68% of venlafaxine-treated and 45% of sertraline-treated patients at week 8 (p = .008). Among patients who increased their dose, the remission rate (HAM-D score < 10) was 67% with venlafaxine and 36% with sertraline at week 8 (p < .05). The overall discontinuation rate was 21% with venlafaxine and 17% with sertraline. The most common adverse events with venlafaxine were nausea, headache, and sweating and with sertraline were nausea, headache, and diarrhea.

Conclusion: Among patients who increased their dose, approximately twice as many experienced a remission with venlafaxine, which is a more clinically relevant endpoint than response and represents the proportion of patients who have recovered or are well.