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

said Koran. "We're dealing with a behavior that has different biological roots in different people and therefore we may have had very different groups of people in the two studies."

In the 2003 study, 24 patients were all initially given citalopram for the open-label portion of the study, during which they all knew they were taking citalopram. Fifteen of those patients reported marked improvements in their buying behaviors. For the second portion of that trial, these 15 patients were randomly assigned to take either citalopram or a placebo without knowing which one they were taking. Of seven patients who continued taking the medication, all seven maintained their improvement, while five of the eight patients receiving a placebo relapsed.

People suffering from compulsive buying disorder are preoccupied with shopping for unneeded items and are frequently unable to resist purchasing them. The problem is not a simple lack of willpower, said Koran, who described it as being as real a disorder as other impulsive behaviors such as alcoholism and pathological gambling. Sufferers of the disorder commonly wind up with closets or rooms filled with unwanted purchases, amassing thousands of dollars of debt in the process and often damaging their relationships by lying to loved ones about their purchases.

A recent nationwide, random-sample telephone survey conducted by Koran and his colleagues indicated that compulsive buying appeared to affect nearly 6 percent of the U.S. population, with nearly equal proportions of men and women affected.

Koran said a larger double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial is needed to reach a conclusive result regarding the effectiveness of escitalopram in treating patients with compulsive buying disorder.

He suggested future clinical trials might be able to yield more information if they were combined with imaging studies of the patients' brains. He cited recent work by Brian Knutson, PhD, assistant professor
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