Lexapro Bests Effexor in Depression Study

First Head-to-Head Comparison of the Popular Antidepressants

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 9, 2002 -- A new antidepressant works faster with fewer side effects than a competitor, according to new research.

The first head-to-head study of two antidepressants shows Lexapro is not only as effective as the popular antidepressant Effexor XR but appears to relieve symptoms faster with fewer side effects.

Study researcher Stuart Montgomery, of the Imperial College School of Medicine at the University of London, presented the findings this week at a meeting of specialists in treating mental health conditions.

The study compared the effectiveness of the two drugs in relieving depression in 288 people who were randomly assigned to take either drug for eight weeks.

Although both drugs effectively eased symptoms and relieved depression in most patients, the researchers found Lexapro prompted a quicker response.

For example, researchers found a significantly larger number of people who took Lexapro had achieved a sustained response to the drug by week six than those treated with Effexor XR. Lexapro-treated patients also experienced a complete remission of their symptoms an average of more than six days faster than the other patients.

Researchers say the early response found with Lexapro is especially important because compliance is a major problem in the treatment of depression -- depressed patients are likely to stop taking a drug if they don't see results.

In addition, the study showed Lexapro seemed to be better tolerated by its users, and fewer Lexapro participants dropped out of the study due to side effects.

However, the majority of patients on either drug (69% for Lexapro and 76% for Effexor XR) reported side effects such as nausea, headache, and sweating.

The FDA approved Lexapro in August for treating depression. It was created using a relatively new approach that removed inactive ingredients in Celexa -- yielding a safer and more potent form of the medication.