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Efficacy of Phenelzine and Haloperidol in Borderline Personality Disorder

Paul H. Soloff, MD; Jack Cornelius, MD, MPH; Anselm George, MD; Swami Nathan, MD; James M. Perel, PhD; Richard F. Ulrich, MS
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993;50(5):377-385. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820170055007.
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Objective:  To compare the efficacy of a neuroleptic (haloperidol) to a monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant (phenelzine sulfate) against the affective, cognitive, and impulsive-aggressive symptoms of criteria-defined borderline inpatients in an effort to dissect apart affective and schizotypal symptom patterns or subtypes using medication response.

Design:  Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Setting:  Inpatient unit of a tertiary care university psychiatric hospital serving a large public catchment area.

Patients:  One hundred eight consecutively admitted borderline inpatients defined by Gunderson's Diagnostic Interview for Borderline Patients and DSM-III-R criteria, randomly assigned to 38 phenelzine, 36 haloperidol, and 34 placebo trials.

Interventions:  Following 1 week free of medication, haloperidol (average dose, 4 mg/d), phenelzine sulfate (average dose, 60 mg/d), or placebo were given for 5 weeks with weekly symptom ratings and plasma drug level determinations.

Main Outcome Measures:  Efficacy was measured on depression (Hamilton Rating Scale, Beck Depression Inventory), global severity (Global Assessment Scale, Symptom Checklist—90 items [SCL-90]), anxiety, angerhostility (SCL-90, Inpatient Multidimensional Psychiatric Scale [IMPS], Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory), psychoticism (Schizotypal Symptom Inventory, SCL-90, IMPS), impulsivity (Ward Scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, SelfReport Test of Impulse Control), and borderline psychotherapy (Borderline Syndrome Index).

Results:  Three-way comparisons between groups indicated superior efficacy for phenelzine, followed by placebo and haloperidol on measures of depression, borderline psychopathologic symptoms, and anxiety. Pairwise comparisons between medication and placebo revealed significant efficacy for phenelzine against anger and hostility but no efficacy against atypical depression or hysteroid dysphoria. We were unable to replicate prior reports of efficacy for the neuroleptic.

Conclusions:  Pharmacologic dissection of borderline personality disorder patients into affective and schizotypal subtypes could not be demonstrated.

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