Study finds most commonly prescribed antidepressants similar in effectiveness

December 18, 2001

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indiana University School of Medicine and Regenstrief Institute for Healthcare study published in the Dec.19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that three of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are similar in effectiveness for depressive symptoms.

The antidepressants, paroxetine (sold under the brand name Paxil), fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac and also available in generic form) and sertaline (sold under the brand name Zoloft), also were shown to be similar in their effect on health-related quality of life measures. Those measures included social interactions, ability to work, sexual functioning and sleep.

This study is the first to compare the effectiveness of paroxetine, fluoxetine and sertaline. The three antidepressants are all members of a class of drugs with a similar chemical structure known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and work on neurotrasmitter pathways in the brain to decrease symptoms of depression.

These three drugs are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants in the country, accounting for over 3 billion dollars of annual prescription costs in the United States and growing by approximately 25 percent each year, according to published statistics. Compared to older classes of antidepressants, SSRIs have a more favorable side effect profile, simpler dosing and less toxicity in the event of an overdose.

This study followed 573 primary care patients diagnosed with depression for nine months, well beyond the acute phase of depression. The patients were randomized to one of the three drugs.

"While clinicians often expect that drugs within a class would have similar effects, very few head-to-head studies such as the one we concluded on SSRIs have been done to confirm this", says Kurt Kroenke, M.D., professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine and research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute for Healthcare, the study's principal investigator.
The study was funded by Eli Lilly & Co., the manufacturer of Prozac.

Indiana University

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