Effect of paroxetine hydrochloride (Paxil) on fatigue and depression in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

  • Roscoe J
  • Morrow GR
  • Hickok JT
  • Mustian KM
  • Jennifer Griggs
  • Matteson SE
  • Bushunow P
  • Qazi R
  • Smith B

BACKGROUND: Fatigue can significantly interfere with a cancer patient's ability to fulfill daily responsibilities and enjoy life. It commonly co-exists with depression in patients undergoing chemotherapy, suggesting that administration of an antidepressant that alleviates symptoms of depression could also reduce fatigue. METHODS: We report on a double-blind clinical trial of 94 female breast cancer patients receiving at least four cycles of chemotherapy randomly assigned to receive either 20 mg of the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) paroxetine (Paxil, SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals) or an identical-appearing placebo. Patients began their study medication seven days following their first on-study treatment and continued until seven days following their fourth on-study treatment. Seven days after each treatment, participants completed questionnaires measuring fatigue (Multidimensional Assessment of Fatigue, Profile of Mood States-Fatigue/Inertia subscale and Fatigue Symptom Checklist) and depression (Profile of Mood States-Depression subscale [POMS-DD] and Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression [CES-D]). RESULTS: Repeated-measures ANOVAs, after controlling for baseline measures, showed that paroxetine was more effective than placebo in reducing depression during chemotherapy as measured by the CES-D (p = 0.006) and the POMS-DD (p = 0.07) but not in reducing fatigue (all measures, ps > 0.27). CONCLUSIONS: Although depression was significantly reduced in the 44 patients receiving paroxetine compared to the 50 patients receiving placebo, indicating that a biologically active dose was used, no significant differences between groups on any of the measures of fatigued were observed. Results suggest that modulation of serotonin may not be a primary mechanism of fatigue related to cancer treatment.

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