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Original Research

A Double-Blind Comparison of Escitalopram and Venlafaxine Extended Release in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder

Robert J. Bielski, MD; Daniel Ventura, PhD; and Chung-Chi Chang, PhD

Published: September 1, 2004

Article Abstract

Background: Escitalopram is the most selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) antidepressant available. Venlafaxine is a nonselective SRI that also inhibits noradrenergic reuptake. This study compared escitalopram and venlafaxine extended release (XR) in depressed outpatients at the highest doses recommended in the United States.

Method: In this randomized trial, patients (diagnosis of DSM-IV-defined major depressive disorder; baseline Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression score of >= 20) received 1 week of single-blind placebo treatment, followed by 8 weeks of double-blind, fixed-dose treatment with either escitalopram or venlafaxine XR (rapidly titrated to 20 mg/day and 225 mg/day, respectively, in accordance with prescribing information). The primary efficacy variable was change from baseline to week 8 in Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) total score. Data were collected from May to December 2002.

Results: Mean baseline MADRS scores for the escitalopram (N = 97) and venlafaxine XR (N = 98) groups were 30.7 and 30.0, respectively. There were no significant differences in measures of efficacy between the 2 antidepressants. Mean changes from baseline to endpoint in MADRS total score for escitalopram and venlafaxine XR were -15.9 and -13.6, respectively. Remission (MADRS score of = 50% reduction from baseline MADRS score) rates for the escitalopram and venlafaxine XR groups were 58.8% and 48.0%, respectively. Tolerability measures favored escitalopram over venlafaxine XR treatment. The venlafaxine XR group had a higher incidence than the escitalopram group of treatment-emergent adverse events (85.0% vs. 68.4%) and discontinuation due to adverse events (16.0% vs. 4.1%; p < .01).

Conclusion: Results of this study indicate that, when titrated rapidly to their maximum recommended doses, escitalopram is at least as effective as venlafaxine XR and significantly better tolerated. These results do not support the hypothesis that nonselective SRIs have greater efficacy than selective SRIs.

Volume: 65

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