Opipramol for the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Placebo-Controlled Trial Including an Alprazolam-Treated Group

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Opipramol, a drug widely prescribed in Germany, is a tricyclic compound with no reuptake-inhibiting properties. However, it has pronounced D2-, 5-HT2-, and H1-blocking potential and high affinity to sigma receptors (sigma-1 and sigma-2). In early controlled trials, anxiolytic effects were revealed. However, those studies were performed before the concept of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) was established. Because of the interesting receptor-binding profile and promising results of the early clinical trials, the authors performed a state-of-the-art placebo-controlled trial using alprazolam as an active control. Three hundred seven outpatients with GAD were included. After a 7-day single-blind placebo washout, patients were randomly assigned to receive either opipramol (final dose, 200 mg/day), alprazolam (2 mg/day), or placebo and were treated for 28 days. The efficacy of both active compounds was higher than the effects with placebo treatment. There were statistically significant differences (p < 0.05, according to the analysis of co-variance) in the main outcome criterion (baseline-adjusted final means of an intent-to-treat analysis of the total scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety) and in secondary efficacy parameters, with global improvement of 47% for placebo and significantly more for opipramol (63%) and alprazolam (64%). Regarding safety and tolerability, no substantial differences in the number of adverse events observed between treatment groups were obvious. Sedation seemed more pronounced with alprazolam treatment than with opipramol or placebo. In this trial, it was demonstrated for the first time that opipramol, a strong but nonselective sigma site ligand, possesses anxiolytic efficacy superior to placebo in the treatment of GAD.

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