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Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Two Doses of Abecarnil for Geriatric Anxiety

Gary W. Small, M.D., and Alexander Bystritsky, M.D.

Published: May 1, 1997

Article Abstract

We studied the tolerability and efficacy of abecarnil, a new partial benzodiazepine agonist, forshort-term relief of anxiety in geriatric patients. After a 1-week placebo lead-in, 182 outpatients(mean ± SD age = 68.3 ± 5.8; range, 59-85 years) were randomly assigned in a double-blind,parallel-group design to high-dosage abecarnil (7.5-17.5 mg daily), low-dosage abecarnil (3.0-7.0mg daily), or placebo for 6 weeks of acute treatment followed by abrupt discontinuation and a 2-weekfollow-up. During the acute treatment period, the discontinuation rate from adverse events wasgreater for the group treated with high-dosage abecarnil (44%) than for the groups treated withlow-dosage abecarnil (14%) or placebo (12%). The most frequently reported side effects associatedwith abecarnil were drowsiness and insomnia. For the acute treatment period, low-dosage abecarnilwas superior to placebo in reducing anxiety at Weeks 2-4 and 6, and was statistically significantlysuperior to high-dosage abecarnil at Weeks 4-6. More than half of the placebo group showed at leastmoderate global improvement at Weeks 3 and 6. One week after abrupt discontinuation of abecarnil,the placebo-treated group had less anxiety than did both groups treated with high-dosage andlow-dosage abecarnil. The most commonly reported symptoms of withdrawal were headache and insomnia.These data indicate that abecarnil, at dosages ranging from 3.0 to 7.0 mg daily, is better toleratedand more efficacious for the short-term treatment of anxiety in geriatric patients than are higherdosages of 7.5 to 17.5 mg daily. Abrupt discontinuation of abecarnil at either dosage range causesdefinite rebound symptoms within the first week after withdrawal. These data also suggest that treatmentwith placebo offers at least moderate relief of anxiety in many elderly patients.

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Volume: 58

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