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This 12-week, double-blind, multicenter trial evaluated the efficacy of venlafaxine extended release (ER), sertraline, and placebo in adult outpatients (N = 538) with a primary diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, symptoms for 6 months or more and 17-item Clinician-administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-SX17) score of 60 or more. Patients were randomly assigned to receive placebo or flexible doses of venlafaxine ER (37.5-300 mg/d) or sertraline (25-200 mg/d) for 12 weeks or less. The primary outcome was the baseline-to-end point change in total CAPS-SX17 score (last observation carried forward). Secondary measures included CAPS-SX17 symptom cluster scores for reexperiencing/intrusion, avoidance/numbing, and hyperarousal; frequency of remission (CAPS-SX17 ≤20); and changes in Davidson Trauma Scale total score and symptom cluster scores for avoidance/numbing, hyperarousal, and reexperiencing/intrusion. Mean changes in CAPS-SX17 scores were −41.8, −39.4, and −33.9 for venlafaxine ER (P < 0.05 vs. placebo), sertraline, and placebo, respectively. Mean changes for venlafaxine ER, sertraline, and placebo in CAPS-SX17 cluster scores were −13.0, −11.7, and −11.0 for reexperiencing; −17.1, −16.8, and −13.7 (P < 0.05 both active treatments vs. placebo) for avoidance/numbing; and −11.8, −10.9, and −9.2 (P < 0.05 venlafaxine vs. placebo) for hyperarousal. Week 12 remission rates were venlafaxine ER 30.2% (P < 0.05 vs. placebo), sertraline 24.3%, and placebo 19.6%. The venlafaxine ER group had significantly better Davidson Trauma Scale total and cluster scores than placebo. Mean maximum daily doses were 225-mg venlafaxine ER and 151-mg sertraline. Both treatments were generally well tolerated. Study results suggest that venlafaxine ER is effective and well tolerated in the short-term treatment of PTSD.