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J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2006 Mar;31(2):122-31.

Efficacy of escitalopram in the treatment of major depressive disorder compared with conventional selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and venlafaxine XR: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, University Health Network, Ont.

Erratum in

  • J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2006 Jul;31(4):228.



Escitalopram is the most selective of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. Previous studies have suggested that escitalopram is superior to citalopram in efficacy. We conducted a meta-analysis of studies in which escitalopram was compared with other antidepressants to assess the relative efficacy of these agents.


Data from all randomized, double-blind studies in major depression in which escitalopram was compared with active controls (citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline and venlafaxine XR [extended release]) were pooled. The 10 studies were conducted in both specialist settings and general practice. Patients met the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), for major depressive disorder and were at least 18 years old. In all but 2 studies, patients were required to have a score of 22 or more on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). The primary outcome measure was the estimated difference in treatment effect in MADRS total score at the end of the study. Secondary outcome measures were the response to treatment (defined as a > or = 50% reduction in baseline MADRS total score) and remission rate (defined as MADRS total score < or = 12 at end of study).


A total of 2687 patients were included in the analyses (escitalopram n = 1345, conventional SSRIs n = 1102, venlafaxine XR n = 240). Escitalopram was superior to all comparators in overall treatment effect, with an estimated difference in treatment effect of 1.07 points (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.42-1.73, p < 0.01), and in response (odds ratio [OR] 1.29, 95% CI 1.07-1.56, p < 0.01) and remission (OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.01-1.46, p < 0.05) rates. In analysis by medication class, escitalopram was significantly superior to the SSRIs and comparable to venlafaxine, although the overall results do not necessarily reflect a significant difference between escitalopram and individual SSRIs. These results were similar in the severely depressed population (patients with baseline MADRS > or = 30). The withdrawal rate due to adverse events was 6.7% for escitalopram compared with 9.1% for the comparators (p < 0.05).


In this meta-analysis, escitalopram showed significant superiority in efficacy compared with the active controls.

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