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Longer Anxiety Therapy Reduces Relapse Rate

Last Updated: December 09, 2010.

Patients with generalized anxiety disorder treated with venlafaxine hydrochloride extended release for 12 months have substantially lower relapse rates when they stop the medication than patients who stop the medication after six months, according to a study in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) treated with venlafaxine hydrochloride extended release (XR) for 12 months have substantially lower relapse rates when they stop the medication than patients who stop the medication after six months, according to a study in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Karl Rickels, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues randomized 136 GAD patients who had improved on six months of treatment with open-label venlafaxine XR (phase 1) to another six months either on the medication or placebo (phase 2). In a third six-month phase, 59 patients who had been on venlafaxine XR for 12 months were randomized to either continuing the medication or placebo, and all patients on placebo were continued on placebo. The researchers followed the groups for GAD relapse in phases 2 and 3.

The researchers found that the relapse rates in phase 2 were 9.8 percent for patients continuing on venlafaxine XR and 53.7 percent for patients switched to placebo. In contrast, patients who were treated with placebo for a full 12 months had a lower relapse rate (32.4 percent)than those treated with venlafaxine for 6 months before switching to placebo (53.7 percent).

"Treatment of GAD with an antidepressant should be continued for at least 12 months. Preliminary data demonstrate that improved patients who relapse while off their antianxiety medication after at least six months of treatment will again most likely respond to a second course of treatment with the same medication," the authors write.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. provided all study medications. Two study authors reported financial ties to medical device and/or pharmaceutical companies, including Wyeth.

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