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A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Fluoxetine in Patients With Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Background: Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a disorder of impulsive aggression that affects as many as 7.3% of the U.S. population during some period of life. Since central serotonergic (5-HT) system dysfunction is related to impulsive aggressive behavior, pharmacologic enhancement of 5-HT activity should reduce impulsive aggressive behavior in individuals with IED.
Method: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the selective 5-HT uptake inhibitor fluoxetine was conducted in 100 individuals with IED (research diagnostic criteria) and current histories of impulsive aggressive behavior. The primary efficacy measure was the aggression score from the Overt Aggression Scale-Modified (OAS-M) for Outpatient Use. Secondary efficacy measures included the irritability score from the OAS-M and the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale (CGI-I) score. The study took place between July 1990 and July 1999.
Results: Fluoxetine treatment resulted in a sustained reduction in OAS-M aggression, and OAS-M irritability scores, apparent as early as week 2 (p < .01 for aggression and p < .001 for irritability at endpoint). Fluoxetine was also superior to placebo in the proportion of responders on the CGI-I (p < .001). Closer examination of the data revealed that full or partial remission of impulsive aggressive behaviors, as reflected by the A criteria for IED, occurred in 46% of fluoxetine-treated subjects. Fluoxetine did not exert an antidepressant or antianxiety effect, and its effects on impulsive aggression were not influenced by presence of current symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Conclusion: Fluoxetine treatment has a clear antiaggressive effect in impulsive aggressive individuals with IED. However, while fluoxetine's antiaggressive effects appear robust, they lead to full or partial remission of IED in less than 50% of subjects treated with fluoxetine.