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Original Research

Double-Blind, Randomized Comparison of Memantine and Escitalopram for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder Comorbid With Alcohol Dependence

Leea H. Muhonen, MD; Jouko Lönnqvist, MD, PhD; Kati Juva, MD, PhD; and Hannu Alho, MD, PhD

Published: March 14, 2008

Article Abstract

Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate possible new treatments for major depressive disorder in patients with comorbid alcohol dependence in a municipal alcohol treatment unit. The efficacy of memantine, a noncompetitive glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-receptor blocker used for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, was compared with that of escitalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant.

Method: Eighty alcohol-dependent outpatients with major depressive disorder (DSM-IV criteria) seeking treatment from municipal alcohol treatment clinics in Helsinki, Finland, were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive memantine 20 mg/day or escitalopram 20 mg/day. During the study period, patients continued their routine treatment at the clinics. Abstinence was not required. Concomitant interventions or imposed treatment goals were not offered by the study physician. The patients returned to the treatment clinics at weeks 1, 2, 4, 12, and 26 for data collection and for medication checking and dispensing. Outcome measures were the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and Beck Depression Inventory-II for depression, Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A) and Beck Anxiety Inventory for anxiety, Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer’s Disease test battery for cognitive functions, and Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale for social and occupational functions and quality-of-life measures. Twenty-nine patients in each group completed the study. All primary and secondary outcome statistical analyses were performed by an independent source for intent-to-treat populations, which included all patients randomly assigned to treatment. The study was conducted from December 2004 to May 2006.

Results: Both treatments significantly reduced the baseline level of depression and anxiety according to MADRS and HAM-A, which were the primary measures (p < .0001). There was no significant difference between the memantine and escitalopram groups. Assessed cognitive functioning scores were primarily within the normative range and were unchanged in both groups. Quality-of-life outcomes equally improved in both treatment groups.

Conclusions: These data provide new evidence for the safety and potential efficacy of memantine and escitalopram for major depressive disorder in patients with comorbid alcohol dependence.

Volume: 69

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