, Volume 171, Issue 4, pp 390-397
Date: 19 Sep 2003

A placebo-controlled study of sertraline in the treatment of outpatients with seasonal affective disorder

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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a relatively common cyclical depressive illness characterized by seasonal depressions during winter. The disorder is commonly responsive to light therapy, but antidepressant drug efficacy has not been definitely established. Serotonin selective re-uptake inhibitors are potentially efficacious treatments for SAD.


The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy, tolerability and safety of sertraline treatment for SAD.


One hundred and eighty seven outpatients with seasonal pattern recurrent winter depression (DSM-III-R defined) and a minimum 29-item Hamilton depression scale (SIGH-SAD version) score of 22 were randomized to 8 weeks treatment with either sertraline or placebo in a double-blind, multi-country, multi-center, parallel-group, flexible dose (50–200 mg once daily) study. Efficacy was investigated using physician and patient-rated scales measuring depression, anxiety and symptoms characteristic of seasonal affective disorder.


Sertraline produced a significantly greater response than placebo at endpoint as measured by changes in the 29-item and 21-item Hamilton depression scales, the clinical global impression (CGI) severity scale, the Hamilton anxiety scale, and the hospital anxiety and depression scale. The proportion of sertraline-treated subjects achieving a response on the CGI improvement rating (ratings of 1 or 2) at endpoint (last observation carried forward) was significantly greater than that of the placebo group. Overall sertraline was well tolerated with the most frequent placebo adjusted adverse events, being nausea, diarrhea, insomnia and dry mouth. Adverse events were mostly mild to moderate and transient.


Sertraline pharmacotherapy has been demonstrated to be an effective and well-tolerated therapy for out patients with SAD. As such, sertraline offers an important pharmacological option in the clinical management of this condition.

The authors wrote this article on behalf of the International Collaborative Group on Sertraline in the Treatment of Outpatients with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Preliminary results from this study were presented previously at the 148th meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Miami, Florida, 24 May 1995