The present overview investigates whether different antidepressants have differing discontinuation symptoms upon treatment cessation, if these symptoms vary between depression and anxiety disorders, and with length of treatment. Data came from two comparative studies of escitalopram in major depressive disorder (MDD) (one vs. venlafaxine XR and one vs. paroxetine), two studies in social anxiety disorder (SAD) (one of which used paroxetine as the active reference), and one study in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), using paroxetine as an active reference [total number of patients: escitalopram (n=1051); paroxetine (n=336); venlafaxine XR (n=124); placebo (n=239)]. All studies included a defined discontinuation period and used the Discontinuation Emergent Signs and Symptoms (DESS) checklist to record the number of discontinuation symptoms. All three antidepressants showed more discontinuation symptoms compared with placebo (p<0.001). Patients reported significantly fewer discontinuation symptoms with escitalopram than with paroxetine and venlafaxine XR in MDD (p<0.05). Escitalopram showed significantly fewer discontinuation symptoms than paroxetine in SAD (p<0.05) and GAD (p<0.001). For each antidepressant, no differences in discontinuation symptoms were observed between the three indications and there was no evidence for increased symptom incidence with increased length of treatment. Thus, discontinuation profiles differ between antidepressants of the same class and are broadly similar in different disorders. No evidence was seen for a higher discontinuation burden with longer treatment.
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