Bloomberg News (1/21, Ostrow) reports that, according to a study published in the Jan. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Forest Laboratories, Inc.’s antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram) aided older adults suffering from” generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, found that nearly “70 percent of those aged 60 and older who took Lexapro improved in anxiety symptoms and social functioning, compared with about 51 percent of those given a dummy pill.” Still, lead author Eric Lenze, M.D., of Washington University, said that a combination of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) “and psychotherapy may provide more advantage.” Noting that the “overall benefit” of the medication is “modest,” Dr. Lenze stated, “This is not a cure-all. It doesn’t mean older adults shouldn’t take this medicine for an anxiety disorder; it means that medication alone won’t be sufficient.” For the study, the researchers “tested the effectiveness of Lexapro in 177 adults 60 and older suffering from” GAD, HealthDay (1/21, Reinberg) added. The participants “were randomly assigned to Lexapro or a placebo for 12 weeks.” The investigators found that participants “on Lexapro…had greater improvement in functioning, activity, and social functioning.” Notably, subjects “with high blood pressure taking Lexapro had a significant decrease in blood pressure,” thereby suggesting “some additional health-related benefits of getting treatment for anxiety in this age group,” Dr. Lenze explained. And, even though the team “used Lexapro for this study,” Dr. Lenze “believes that other SSRIs would produce the same beneficial effect.” WebMD (1/20, Doheny) pointed out that “SSRIs are medications prescribed for both anxiety and depression, and are thought to work by correcting an imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin.” Currently, experts estimate that “nearly one in 10 older adults” may be “affected by GAD,” and therefore may be exposed to “high levels of [the stress hormone] cortisol,” which may be “hard on one’s health.” In addition to “medication, treatment” of GAD “can include cognitive behavior therapy, also known as ‘talk therapy,'” Dr. Lenze said, adding, “Relaxation therapy can be effective at well.” Dr. Lenze emphasized that GAD is “distressing and burdensome,” but “people can get help. It is a treatable problem.”


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