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An Open-Label Study of Levetiracetam for the Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65:1219-1222

Objective: Social anxiety disorder is a disabling condition characterized by excessive fear and avoidance of social and performance situations. While a variety of effective pharmacotherapies exists, many patients do not fully respond to or tolerate available agents. Preclinical and early clinical experience with levetiracetam, a novel anticonvulsant agent, suggests that levetiracetam has anxiolytic properties and a favorable adverse event profile. Levetiracetam thus warrants systematic evaluation as a treatment option for anxiety disorders.

Method: Twenty adult outpatients who were recruited through advertisement and clinical referral and who met DSM-IV criteria for social anxiety disorder, generalized type, participated in this 8-week open-label, flexible-dose study from November 2002 to December 2003. Participants were required to have scores of >= 50 on the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) and >= 4 on the Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scale (CGI-S) at baseline. The presence of comorbid depression and anxiety disorders were permitted as long as social anxiety disorder was the primary disorder. Levetiracetam was initiated at 250 mg/day for the first week and flexibly titrated up to a maximum of 3000 mg/day (1500 mg b.i.d.). The primary outcome measure was change in the LSAS score at endpoint.

Results: There was a clinically significant 20.5-point decrease in LSAS scores in the intent-to-treat, last-observation-carried-forward analysis (t = 3.1; p < .01, N = 20). There were also significant reductions in CGI-S (p < .01) and Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (p < .02) scores.

Conclusions: This pilot study supports the safety and potential efficacy of a novel agent, levetiracetam, for the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Larger controlled trials are warranted to confirm these results.