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Some children and adolescents with disabling anxiety have been found most likely to recover when treated with a combination of talk therapy and an antidepressant medicine. So says the largest study to date of anxiety disorders in this age group.
Benedict Carey’s article in the NY Times describes the government-financed study, which tracked 500 patients. It found that 8 in 10 children who received the combined therapy improved significantly, compared with less than six in ten who had either the drug or the talk therapy (known as “cognitive behavior therapy.”)
Released online in The New England Journal of Medicine on October 30, the study clarifies the treatment picture for young patients. It should increase interest in combined therapy, say experts. Because the fact is, up to half of children and adolescents struggling with chronic anixiety do not seem to improve much in treatment, according to psychiatrists’ estimates.
The researchers reported no increase in serious side effects from Zoloft, the antidepressant used in the study (the drug belongs to a class of medications that has been associated with a small risk of suicidal thing and behavior).
“It’s surprising that they found such a dramatic difference between combined treatment and the others,” says Dr Sanjiv Kumra, director of the child and adolescent psychiatry program at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the research.
“I think this should be reassuring for parents interested in finding good treatment for a child, and it should send a message to third-party payers.”
The new report is the latest from a continuing study financed by the National Institutes of Health.
The children were separated into four groups. After 12 weeks, 80 percent of children receiving the combined therapy had either shaken their anxiety or improved very much. Similar improvements were found in about 60 percent of those getting talk therapy alone; 55 percent of those receiving Zoloft alone; and less than a quarter of those taking dummy pills.
“All of the treatment options employed may be recommended, taking into consideration the family’s treatment preferences” (as well as cost and availability) say John T Walkup of Johns Hopkins and Philip C Kendall of Temple University, authors of the study.
sole source: Benedict Carey’s article in the NY Times on 10/31/08. www.nytimes.com
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