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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Efficacy, safety and tolerability of escitalopram in doses up to 50 mg in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): an open-label, pilot study

Alan G Wade1*, Gordon M Crawford1 and Ann Yellowlees2

Author Affiliations

1 CPS Research, Glasgow, G20 0XA, UK

2 Quantics Consulting Limited, Tweed Horizons, Newtown St Boswells, Scottish Borders TD6 0SG, UK

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BMC Psychiatry 2011, 11:42  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-42

Published: 16 March 2011

Abstract

Background

Escitalopram is licensed for use at doses up to 20 mg but is used clinically at higher doses. There is limited published data at higher doses and none in the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

Methods

This open-label, pilot study was designed to investigate the efficacy, safety and tolerability of escitalopram in doses up to 50 mg in MDD. It was conducted in 60 primary care patients with MDD who had not responded to adequate treatment with citalopram. Patients were treated with escalating doses of escitalopram up to 50 mg for up to 32 weeks until they achieved remission (Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale [MADRS] ≤8) or failed to tolerate the dose.

Results

Forty-two patients (70%) completed the study. Twenty-one patients (35%) achieved remission with 8 of the 21 patients (38%) needing the 50 mg dose to achieve remission. Median time to remission was 24 weeks and median dose in remission was 30 mg. No significant safety issues were identified although tolerability appeared to decline above a dose of 40 mg with 26% of patients unable to tolerate 50 mg. Twelve (20%) patients had adverse events leading to discontinuation. The most common adverse events were headache (35%), nausea, diarrhoea and nasopharyngitis (all 25%). Minor mean weight gain was found during the study, which did not appear to be dose-related. Half of the patients who completed the study chose to continue treatment with escitalopram rather than taper down the dose at 32 weeks.

Conclusions

Dose escalation with escitalopram above 20 mg may have a useful role in the management of patients with MDD, although further studies are needed to confirm this finding.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00785434