Zoloft No Better Than Placebo In Treatment Study On Veterans With PTSD

Veterans taking Zoloft for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to fare no better than those undergoing psychotherapy to address symptoms, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers concluded Zoloft and psychotherapy both improved patient symptoms of PTSD significantly in a 24 week period. However, combining the two treatments didn’t offer patients any added benefit.

The findings were published December 5, in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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Researchers from the Prolonged Exposure and Sertraline Trial conducted a randomized 24-week clinical trial at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System, the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Veterans Program between January 26, 2012, and May 9, 2016.

The study included 223 service members or veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars with combat related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They assessed veterans at intake, then again at week 6, 12 , 24, and after one year.

Veterans were given either Zoloft, a placebo and psychotherapy, or a combination of Zoloft and psychotherapy to treat their PTSD.

Overall, participants experienced significantly decreased PTSD symptoms during the 24 week study period in both the Zoloft and therapy group. However, the group of combined therapy did not see more improvements in PTSD symptoms compared to the other two groups.

Current guidelines for treating PTSD call for trauma-focused psychotherapies, like exposure therapy, or treatment with antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Zoloft is an SSRI antidepressant that is often prescribed for depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and PTSD.

Prolonged exposure therapy is a psychological therapy that calls for patients to confront their fears in a safe environment. The therapy focuses on exposing patients to their fears, instead of avoiding their fears.

The study’s findings indicate there was no difference between the two types of treatment. Zoloft and psychotherapy both helped to reduce PTSD symptoms at about the same rate. However, combining them did not significantly improve that reduction.

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