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Study of Drug Therapy for Compulsive Buying Yields a Puzzle,,Stanford Researcher Says

STANFORD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mar 14, 2007 - Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine say they are puzzled by findings from their new study indicating that an antidepressant, which previously showed promise in treating a behavioral disorder known as compulsive buying, did not result in a sustained benefit for the patients who took it.

The medication is escitalopram, a commonly prescribed antidepressant sold under the brand name Lexapro. In the study, researchers found no difference in the relapse rate of people with compulsive-buying disorder when they continued to take escitalopram compared with those who had been switched to a placebo. Those results are perplexing to lead author Lorrin Koran, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences emeritus, because he had done a similar study in 2003 that found compulsive-buying patients improved stably after taking another antidepressant medication, citalopram, in which escitalopram is the active ingredient.

"It was a shock that, when we did the trial again with the active ingredient, it didn't work exactly the same way. It should have," said Koran, who also led the 2003 study. The results of the latest double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Koran said the unexpected result from the new study may in part be due to the small number of participants in the double-blind phase of the trial, which involved just 17 subjects whose buying behavior had markedly improved in the initial stage of the trial when they were all taking escitalopram. Of the nine randomly assigned to take a placebo in the later part of the trial, six relapsed, while five of eight continuing on escitalopram relapsed.

But the study size is likely not the only factor influencing the outcome of the trial.

"I don't think we're dealing with one pure biological disorder,"
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