Antidepressant may stop the need to shop — (The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

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The Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

By Robin L. Flanigan

Monday, April 23, 2001 

Stanford University researchers are studying whether a pill can squash the urge to splurge.

The drug – sold under such trade names as Celexa, Cipramil and Seropram – is a member of the newest class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Shopping decisions
Experts on compulsive shopping suggest asking these questions before you buy:
• What calamity will befall me if I don’t buy this right now?

• Do I want this, or do I need this?

• If I don’t have the money now, what makes me think I’ll have it at the end of the month?

• Will I have to cross any legal or moral boundaries to buy this?

An initial trial that ended in January, funded by the New York City-based pharmaceutical company Forest Laboratories, had 24 compulsive shoppers taking an antidepressant for 12 weeks. Preliminary results had 80 percent of the patients reporting less anxiety, less depression and less impulsiveness.Not everyone is buying the findings.

“I think it’s bogus,” says Laurence Guttmacher, chief of psychiatry at the Rochester (N.Y.) Psychiatric Center. “If it’s a prospective trial and if there’s a placebo control, then I start to get impressed. Absent that, frankly, there’s nothing really to hang your hat on.”

Study leader Lorrin Koran, a professor of psychiatry and director of Stanford’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic, will be double-blinding a second trial this year to put that control in place.

Neither the doctor nor the volunteers will know whose medication has been replaced with a placebo, preventing patients from improving simply based on their expectations.