Sertraline Provides No Benefit for Symptomatic Chronic Breathlessness

Prescription pills, medicine
Prescription pills, medicine
Individuals with chronic breathlessness who were treated with sertraline showed no improvement in symptomatic relief.

Individuals with chronic breathlessness who were treated with 25 to 100 mg sertraline for 4 weeks showed no improvement in symptomatic relief compared with placebo, according to study results published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Average morning and evening current intensity of breathlessness visual analogue scale (VAS) scores on days 26, 27, and 28 from study participants randomly assigned to receive  either 1 capsule daily of oral sertraline (days 1-3: 25 mg daily; days 4-6: 50 mg daily; and then 100 mg daily) or placebo. Researchers compared the VAS scores between groups. Secondary end points included exposure to treatment, breathlessness (average, worst, and relief over the previous 24 hours), unpleasantness, functional status, anxiety and depression, and global impression of change.

Of the 249 patients screened, 223 were enrolled in the study and randomly assigned to one of the 2 groups. In the primary study outcome, breathlessness intensity lessened in both groups with no difference between them (P =.636). There was also no difference in the proportions of patients with a >15% reduction in current intensity of breathlessness from baseline. In secondary outcomes, however, global quality of life scores in the sertraline group had greater improvement (days 0-28: 0.21; 95% CI, 0.01-0.41; P =.044 and days 26-28: 0.64; 95% CI, 0.21-1.07; P =.003). There were no differences in functional status or anxiety or depression scores.

 “The current findings do not support the use of sertraline for the symptomatic treatment of chronic breathlessness, nor does this study identify any sub-group for further study where there is signal of potential benefit using baseline clinico-demographic data,” the researchers concluded.

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Currow D, Ekstrӧm M, Louw S, et al. Sertraline in symptomatic chronic breathlessness: a double blind, randomised trial [published October 25, 2018]. Eur Respir J. doi:10.1183/13993003.01270-2018