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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1990;102(1):85-94.

Serotonin function in panic disorder: a double blind placebo controlled study with fluvoxamine and ritanserin.

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  • 1Department of Biological Psychiatry, University Hospital, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In order to evaluate serotonin (5-HT) function in panic disorder, a double blind placebo controlled study was conducted with ritanserin, a specific 5-HT2 receptor antagonist, and fluvoxamine, a selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitor, in 60 patients with panic disorder. Patients were treated for 8 weeks with 150 mg fluvoxamine, 20 mg ritanserin or placebo; these dose levels were reached after 1 week. In addition, as an index of 5-HT function in panic disorder, plasma concentration of beta-endorphin, cortisol and 5-hydroxyindolacetic-acid (5-HIAA) were measured. Furthermore, 5-HT uptake in blood platelets was assessed. Noradrenergic function was assessed by measuring plasma MHPG concentration. In addition, plasma melatonin concentration was measured. Treatment with fluvoxamine resulted in a profound reduction in the number of panic attacks, followed by a decrease in avoidance behavior. Treatment with ritanserin appeared to be ineffective. During treatment no significant changes were observed in plasma concentrations of beta-endorphin, cortisol, 5-HIAA and MHPG. With respect to 5-HT kinetics in blood platelets, a substantial increase in Km was observed after treatment with fluvoxamine, whereas Vmax decreased. After treatment with fluvoxamine, plasma concentration of melatonin was significantly increased, which suggests that melatonin synthesis is in part under serotonergic control. The findings of the present study do not support the hypothesis that 5-HT2 receptors are supersensitive in patients suffering from panic disorder, but allow no conclusions about the involvement of other 5-HT receptor subtypes.

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