Effect of concurrent anxiety on response to sertraline and imipramine in patients with chronic depression

James M. Russell, Lorrin M. Koran, John Rush, Robert M.A. Hirschfeld, Wilma Harrison, Edward S. Friedman, Sonia Davis, Martin Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Anxiety commonly complicates the clinical presentation of depression and has been associated with poorer long-term outcome, but little information is available on the clinical correlates, and comparative effect on treatment response, of subsyndromic or secondary anxiety. Patients diagnosed with chronic major or double depression were randomized to 12 weeks of double-blind treatment with either sertraline or imipramine in a 2:1 ratio. A high anxiety subgroup was operationally defined by a HAM-D anxiety/somatization factor score ≥ 7. The effect of study treatment was measured utilizing the HAM-D, CGI, HAM-D anxiety/somatization factor, as well as a quality of life measure (Q-LES-Q) and a measure of psychosocial functioning (the MOS-SF-36). Two hundred nine patients were treated with imipramine and 426 patients were treated with sertraline. Thirty-six percent of the total met criteria for the high anxiety subgroup. According to Kaplan-Meier probability estimates, patients with significant concurrent anxiety symptoms were more likely to respond by 12 weeks (66.4%) than those without significant anxiety symptoms (54.2%). There was no significant difference in response rates for sertraline vs. imipramine. Both drugs were effective at treating high baseline levels of anxiety, with 60% of sertraline patients and 58% of imipramine patients having 50% or greater reduction from baseline in HAM-D anxiety/somatization factor scores, and only 4.6% and 9.9%, respectively, reporting treatment-emergent worsening in anxiety at study endpoint. Despite the chronicity of depressive illness, acute treatment with both sertraline and imipramine significantly improved psychosocial and quality of life measures. High baseline levels of anxiety did not reduce overall antidepressant response but did somewhat delay the onset of response to sertraline or imipramine in patients with chronic depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Antidepressive agents
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Imipramine
  • Sertraline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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