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Acta Derm Venereol. 2009;89(1):45-51. doi: 10.2340/00015555-0553.

Treatment of chronic pruritus with the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors paroxetine and fluvoxamine: results of an open-labelled, two-arm proof-of-concept study.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Clinical Neurodermatology, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.


Chronic pruritus is difficult to treat and requires the evaluation of new therapeutic modalities. We initiated an open-labelled, two-arm prospective, proof-of-concept study applying two selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors on a long-term basis. Paroxetine and fluvoxamine were tested in a total of 72 pruritic patients (27 men, 45 women, age range 28-88 years, mean age 59.2 years). The reduction in pruritus was evaluated by analysis of visual analogue scores and determination of the maximal antipruritic effect (maximal percentual reduction in pruritus). Forty-nine of 72 patients (68.0%) experienced a weak (n=9), good (n=16) or very good (n=24) antipruritic effect. Statistical analysis proved the efficacy of paroxetine and fluvoxamine with no significant difference. The best response was observed in patients with pruritus due to atopic dermatitis, systemic lymphoma and solid carcinoma. Chronic scratch lesions healed completely in 14/31 patients and partially in 17/31 patients. Adverse drug effects were observed in 70.8% of patients, resulting in discontinuation of treatment in 18 patients. These results support previous reports of high antipruritic potency of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which are a good alternative treatment modality in chronic pruritus. This should be confirmed in future double-blind studies.

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