, Volume 171, Issue 4, pp 390–397

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

  • Adam Moscovitch
  • Carl A. Blashko
  • John M. Eagles
  • Guy Darcourt
  • Christopher Thompson
  • Siegfried Kasper
  • Roger M. Lane
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-003-1594-8

Cite this article as:
Moscovitch, A., Blashko, C.A., Eagles, J.M. et al. Psychopharmacology (2004) 171: 390. doi:10.1007/s00213-003-1594-8



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.


Seasonal affective disorderSertralineReversed vegetative symptoms

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam Moscovitch
    • 1
  • Carl A. Blashko
    • 2
  • John M. Eagles
    • 3
  • Guy Darcourt
    • 4
  • Christopher Thompson
    • 5
  • Siegfried Kasper
    • 6
  • Roger M. Lane
    • 7
  1. 1.Canadian Sleep InstituteCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryGrey Nuns HospitalEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Mental Health Services Unit, Ross ClinicRoyal Cornhill HospitalAberdeenUK
  4. 4.Pasteur Hospital NiceFrance
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry University of Southampton, Royal South Hants HospitalSouthamptonUK
  6. 6.Department of General PsychiatryUniversity of Vienna ViennaAustria
  7. 7.Neuroscience Clinical Development and Medical AffairsNovartis Pharmaceuticals CorporationEast HanoverUSA