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Comparative Efficacy of SSRIs and Amisulpride in Burning Mouth Syndrome: A Single-Blind Study

Giuseppe Maina, M.D.; Alberto Vitalucci, M.D.; Sergio Gandolfo, M.D.; and Filippo Bogetto, M.D.


Introduction: Although a significant amount of evidence indicates the efficacy of some antidepressants in treating psychogenic pain and somatoform disorder, very few studies have investigated their possible therapeutic action in burning mouth syndrome (BMS). The purpose of this 8-week, single-blind study was to provide preliminary data on the efficacy and tolerability of amisulpride and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) paroxetine and sertraline for patients with BMS.

Method: Seventy-six patients with BMS (diagnosed according to the criteria in the literature and integrating the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-Revised for a complete psychiatric assessment), with no possible local or systemic causes and without concurrent major depression, were randomly assigned to receive amisulpride (50 mg/day), paroxetine (20 mg/day), or sertraline (50 mg/day). Efficacy assessments included a visual analogue scale (VAS) for pain intensity, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A), and the Clinical Global Impressions scale (CGI).

Results: All 3 treatment regimens resulted in a significant improvement from baseline in burning mouth symptoms at week 8 as demonstrated by the quantitative (mean reduction in VAS, HAM-D, and HAM-A scores) and qualitative (percentage of responders) analyses. Amisulpride showed a shorter response latency than the SSRIs. No serious adverse events were reported, and the incidence of side effects did not differ among the 3 groups. None of the patients who received amisulpride withdrew from the trial, whereas withdrawal from the trial occurred within the first week of treatment in 11.5% of patients (N=3) treated with paroxetine and in 21.7% of patients (N=5) treated with sertraline.

Conclusion: The data suggest that amisulpride and SSRIs may be effective treatments for BMS; they are equally effective and equally well tolerated in the short-term treatment of BMS. Amisulpride is associated with better compliance within the first week of treatment and with a shorter response latency in comparison with SSRIs. This finding may indicate that amisulpride is especially useful at the beginning of drug therapy of BMS. Double-blind, placebo-controlled trials are needed to further document the efficacy of amisulpride and SSRIs in the treatment of BMS.

(J Clin Psychiatry 2002;63:38-43)


Received April 20, 2001; accepted July 31, 2001. From the Department of Neuroscience, Psychiatric Unit (Drs. Maina, Vitalucci, and Bogetto), and the Department of Oral Medicine and Periodontology (Dr. Gandolfo), University of Turin, Turin, Italy.

Reprint requests to: Giuseppe Maina, M.D., Department of Neuroscience, Psychiatric Unit, University of Turin, Via Cherasco 11, 10126 Turin, Italy (e-mail: bogetto@molinette.unito.it).