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BMC Psychiatry. 2004 Jun 11;4:16.

Three year naturalistic outcome study of panic disorder patients treated with paroxetine.

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The Rehovot Community Mental Health Care & Rehabilitation Center affiliated to Tel Aviv University, 76449, Israel.



This naturalistic open label follow-up study had three objectives: 1) To observe the course of illness in Panic Disorder patients receiving long-term versus intermediate-term paroxetine treatment, 2) To compare the relapse rates and side-effect profile after long-term paroxetine treatment between patients with Panic Disorder and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, 3) To observe paroxetine's tolerability over a 24 month period.


143 patients with panic disorder (PD), with or without agoraphobia, successfully finished a short-term (ie 12 week) trial of paroxetine treatment. All patients then continued to receive paroxetine maintenance therapy for a total of 12 months. At the end of this period, 72 of the patients chose to discontinue paroxetine pharmacotherapy and agreed to be monitored throughout a one year discontinuation follow-up phase. The remaining 71 patients continued on paroxetine for an additional 12 months and then were monitored, as in the first group, for another year while medication-free. The primary limitation of our study is that the subgroups of patients receiving 12 versus 24 months of maintenance paroxetine therapy were selected according to individual patient preference and therefore were not assigned in a randomized manner.


Only 21 of 143 patients (14%) relapsed during the one year medication discontinuation follow-up phase. There were no significant differences in relapse rates between the patients who received intermediate-term (up to 12 months) paroxetine and those who chose the long-term course (24 month paroxetine treatment). 43 patients (30.1%) reported sexual dysfunction. The patients exhibited an average weight gain of 5.06 kg. All patients who eventually relapsed demonstrated significantly greater weight increase (7.3 kg) during the treatment phase.


The extension of paroxetine maintenance treatment from 12 to 24 months did not seem to further decrease the risk of relapse after medication discontinuation. Twenty-four month paroxetine treatment is accompanied by sexual side effects and weight gain similar to those observed in twelve month treatment.

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