Escitalopram in Adolescents With Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study

Background: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat pediatric anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); however, their efficacy and tolerability are difficult to predict. This study evaluated the efficacy and tolerability of escitalopram in adolescents with GAD (DSM-IV-TR) and the impact of variants in HTR2A and serotonin transporter (SLC6A4) genes and cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) phenotypes on response as well as CYP2C19 phenotype on escitalopram pharmacokinetics from February 2015 through November 2018.

Methods: Patients were treated with escitalopram (forced titration to 15 mg/d, then flexible titration to 20 mg/d) (n = 26, mean ± SD age: 14.8 ± 1.7 years) or placebo (n = 25, mean ± SD age: 14.9 ± 1.6 years) for 8 weeks. Outcomes were the change in scores on the Pediatric Anxiety Rating Scale (PARS) and Clinical Global Impressions (CGI) scales as well as vital signs and adverse events. Plasma escitalopram and desmethylcitalopram area under the curve during 24 hours (AUC0–24) and maximum concentration (Cmax) were determined and compared across CYP2C19 phenotypes.

Results: Escitalopram was superior to placebo for mean ± SD baseline-to-endpoint change in PARS (8.65 ± 1.3 vs −3.52 ± 1.1, P = .005) and CGI scores, and increasing CYP2C19 metabolism was associated with decreases in escitalopram Cmax (P = .07) and AUC0–24 (P < .05). Vital signs, corrected QT interval, and adverse events were similar in patients who received escitalopram and placebo.

Conclusions: Escitalopram reduces anxiety symptoms, and pharmacogenetics variables influence the trajectory and magnitude of improvement. Variation in CYP2C19 metabolism accounts for significant differences in escitalopram pharmacokinetics, raising the possibility that CYP2C19 phenotype should be considered when prescribing escitalopram.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02818751

J Clin Psychiatry 2020;81(5):20m13396

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.20m13396