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Depress Anxiety. 2019 Mar;36(3):198-212. doi: 10.1002/da.22854. Epub 2018 Nov 26.

Systematic review and meta-analysis: Dose-response curve of SSRIs and SNRIs in anxiety disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.



We aimed to examine the efficacy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) for anxiety disorders examining overall symptom improvement, likelihood of treatment response, time course of treatment response, individual pharmacological agent, diagnostic indication dose, and tolerability.


We searched PubMed and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. We included randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials of SSRIs/SNRIs in adult patients with anxiety disorders that provided data at three or more time points. Extracted data included trial duration, weekly/biweekly anxiety scores for 12 weeks.


Meta-analysis included 57 trials (N = 16,056). A linear mixed model analysis based on weekly outcome data suggested that for SNRI a logarithmic model offered the best fit compared to placebo (indicating the greatest incremental improvement from baseline occurred early in treatment); whereas for SSRI a linear model provided the best fit (indicating a similar improvement over the duration of the acute treatment phase). There were no significant differences in efficacy between pharmacological agents within each class or when comparing SSRIs to SNRIs. The greatest treatment benefits were observed for social anxiety disorder for both medication classes. Higher doses of SSRIs, but not SNRIs, were associated with significantly greater symptom improvement and likelihood of treatment response. For both medical classes, higher doses were associated with an increased likelihood of dropout due to side effects.


SSRIs and SNRIs are effective in treating anxiety disorders. Higher doses of SSRIs within the therapeutic range are associated with greater treatment benefit, whereas higher doses of SNRIs are not.


anxiety disorders; meta-analysis; panic disorder; serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors; serotonin reuptake inhibitors; social anxiety disorder; tolerability

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