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Original Research

Randomized Controlled Trial of Riluzole Augmentation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Efficacy of a Glutamatergic Modulator for Antidepressant-Resistant Symptoms

Patricia T. Spangler, PhDa,b,*; James C. West, MDc; Catherine L. Dempsey, PhD, MPHa,b; Kyle Possemato, PhDd; Danielle Bartolanzo, MPHa,b; Pablo Aliaga, MSa,b; Carlos Zarate, Jr, MDe; Meena Vythilingam, MD, CAPT, USPHSf; and David M. Benedek, MDc

Published: October 27, 2020

Article Abstract

Objective: Current pharmacologic treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have shown limited efficacy, prompting a call to investigate new classes of medications. The current study investigated the efficacy of glutamate modulation with riluzole augmentation for combat-related PTSD symptoms resistant to treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Methods: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial was conducted at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Syracuse VA Medical Center between December 2013 and November 2017. Veterans and active duty service members with combat-related PTSD (per the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale [CAPS]) who were not responsive to SSRI or SNRI pharmacotherapy were randomized to 8-week augmentation with a starting dose of 100 mg/d of riluzole (n = 36) or placebo (n = 38) and assessed weekly for PTSD symptoms, anxiety, depression, disability, and side effects.

Results: Intent-to-treat analyses (N = 74) of the primary outcome (CAPS for DSM-IV) showed no significant between-group difference in change in overall PTSD symptoms (F = 0.64, P = .422), with a small effect size (d = 0.25). There was clinically significant within-group improvement in overall PTSD symptoms in both groups, with a greater mean (SD) decrease in CAPS score in the riluzole group (−21.1 [18.9]) than in the placebo group (−16.7 [17.2]). Exploratory analyses of PTSD symptom clusters showed significantly greater improvement on hyperarousal symptoms in the riluzole group as measured by the PTSD Checklist-Specific-Subscale D (d = 0.48) and near-significant findings on the CAPS Subscale D. Riluzole augmentation was not superior to placebo on change in depression, anxiety, or disability severity.

Conclusions: Although preliminary, the exploratory findings of this study offer some evidence that riluzole augmentation of an SSRI or SNRI may selectively improve PTSD hyperarousal symptoms without changes in overall PTSD symptoms, depression, anxiety, or disability. Additional investigation of the mechanism of the efficacy of riluzole for hyperarousal symptoms is warranted.

Trial Registration: identifier: NCT02155829

Volume: 81

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