Sertraline may reduce anxiety more quickly than depressive symptoms

Researchers found that sertraline was unlikely to reduce depressive symptoms within six weeks but secondary analyses showed that it reduced anxiety symptoms

Sertraline blister pack

Sertraline is unlikely to reduce depressive symptoms within six weeks, compared with placebo, according to findings from a randomised controlled trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry (19 September 2019)[1]

However, secondary analyses showed that sertraline led to reduced anxiety symptoms and better mental health-related quality of life.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) examined the effects of sertraline among 653 primary care patients with depressive symptoms where there was clinical uncertainty about the benefit of an antidepressant.

They found that sertraline was unlikely to reduce depressive symptoms within six weeks, compared with placebo, and there was only weak evidence that it reduced depressive symptoms at 12 weeks. 

But, participants in the sertraline group were found to be twice as likely as those in the placebo group to say their mental health had improved overall (adjusted odds ratio 1.96, 95% confidence interval 1.45—2.63; P<0.0001).

The authors concluded that antidepressants could benefit a wider group of people than previously believed, including people who do not meet diagnostic criteria for depression or generalised anxiety disorder.

“Sertraline is effective for the people likely to receive antidepressants in primary care,” said study author Glyn Lewis, head of division at UCL Psychiatry.

“They work, just in a different way than we had expected.”


[1] Lewis G, Duffy L, Ades A et al. The clinical effectiveness of sertraline in primary care and the role of depression severity and duration (PANDA): a pragmatic, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial. Lancet Psych 2019. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30366-9

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2019, Vol 303, No 7931;303(7931):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207235

You may also be interested in