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Specificity of Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Comparison of Fluvoxamine and Desipramine

Wayne K. Goodman, MD; Lawrence H. Price, MD; Pedro L. Delgado, MD; Joseph Palumbo, MD; John H. Krystal, MD; Linda M. Nagy, MD; Steven A. Rasmussen, MD; George R. Heninger, MD; Dennis S. Charney, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1990;47(6):577-585. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1990.01810180077011.
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• To evaluate whether serotonin reuptake inhibition is critical to the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, 40 outpatients with a principal diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder were randomized in a double-blind fashion to 8 weeks of treatment with either the serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluvoxamine maleate (n = 21) or the norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor desipramine hydrochloride (n =19). Fluvoxamine was significantly better than desipramine in reducing the severity of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, as measured by the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale and by the global response rate ("responder" equaling "much improved"). Eleven of 21 patients were responders with fluvoxamine compared with 2 of 19 patients with desipramine. Fluvoxamine, but not desipramine, was also effective in reducing the severity of "secondary" depression. Fluvoxamine-induced improvement in symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder was not correlated with the severity of baseline depressive symptoms. This study provides additional evidence that the acute serotonin reuptake properties of a drug are predictive of its anti—obsessive-compulsive efficacy. It is hypothesized that the mechanism of action of serotonin reuptake inhibitors in obsessive-compulsive disorder may be related to chronic treatment-induced adaptive changes in presynaptic serotonin receptor function (eg, autoreceptor desensitization) and/ or indirect influences on dopaminergic function (eg, in the basal ganglia).


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