BOSTON -- A drug commonly prescribed for depression has shown great promise in treating a serious, yet highly under-recognized condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), according to new study led by Duke psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Davidson.
Davidson said the anti-depressant drug, venlafaxine extended release (XR), is the first new therapy in 10 years to be proven clearly effective in treating symptoms of GAD, a mental disorder characterized by persistent, excessive anxiety and worry over routine life activities. The condition can be serious enough to impair social and job functioning, and often includes physical symptoms such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache and nausea. Depression is found in 30 percent to 50 percent of GAD patients.
Findings of the study, funded by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, will be presented in Boston March 26 at a scientific symposium held in conjunction with the 18th National Conference of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.
"This condition is a very prevalent, yet frustrating medical condition to treat because physicians often fail to correctly diagnose it and have limited treatment options," Davidson said. "The new findings are important because they demonstrate the potential for expanded treatment options for this chronic disorder."
In the eight-week, multi-center study of 405 non-depressed patients with GAD, Davidson and colleagues compared the effects of venlafaxine XR to both a placebo (sugar pill) and to a commonly used anti-anxiety medication called buspirone.
Results showed that venlafaxine XR was superior to the placebo in its
ability to reduce symptoms, especially feelings of worry, tension and being on
edge. Both doses of venlafaxine XR -- 75 mg and 150 mg -- were more effective
than the placebo. Nausea was the most commonly reported side effect. Buspirone,
however, was not more effective than the placebo, although previous
Contact: Rebecca A. Levine
Duke University Medical Center