Azapirones for generalized anxiety disorder Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Azapirones are a group of drugs that work at the 5-HT1A receptor and are used to treat patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). However, several studies have shown conflicting results. Whether azapirones are useful as first line treatment in general anxiety disorders still needs to be answered. OBJECTIVES: To assess the efficacy and the acceptability of azapirones for the treatment of GAD. SEARCH STRATEGY: Initially the Cochrane Collaboration Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Controlled Trials Register (CCDANCTR) and The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) were searched, incorporating results of group searches of MEDLINE (1966 to June 2005), EMBASE (1980 to June 2005), CINAHL (1982 to June 2005), PsycLIT (1974 to June 2005), PSYNDEX (1977 to June 2005), and LILACS (1982 to June 2005). Subsequently the revised Cochrane Collaboration Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Controlled Trials Registers (CCDANCTR-Studies and CCDANCTR-References) were searched on 21-10-2005. Reference lists of relevant papers and major text books of anxiety disorder were examined. Authors, other experts in the field and pharmaceutical companies were contacted for knowledge of suitable trials, published or unpublished. Specialist journals concerning azapirones were handsearched. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomized controlled trials of azapirones, including buspirone versus placebo and/or other medication and/or psychological treatment, were included. Participants were males and females of all ages with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were extracted from the original reports independently by CC, MA and MT. The main outcomes studied were related to the objectives stated above. Data were analysed for generalized anxiety disorder versus placebo, versus other medication and versus psychological treatment separately. Data were analysed using Review Manager Version 4.2.7. MAIN RESULTS: Thirty six trials were included in the review, reporting on 5908 participants randomly allocated to azapirones and/or placebo, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, psychotherapy or kava kava. Azapirones, including buspirone, were superior to placebo in treating GAD. The calculated number needed to treat for azapirones using the Clinical Global Impression scale was 4.4 (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.16 to 15.4). Azapirones may be less effective than benzodiazepines and we were unable to conclude if azapirones were superior to antidepressants, kava kava or psychotherapy. Azapirones appeared to be well tolerated. Fewer participants stopped taking benzodiazepines compared to azapirones. The length of studies ranged from four to nine weeks, with one study lasting 14 weeks. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Azapirones appeared to be useful in the treatment of GAD, particularly for those participants who had not been on a benzodiazepine. Azapirones may not be superior to benzodiazepines and do not appear as acceptable as benzodiazepines. Side effects appeared mild and non serious in the azapirone treated group. Longer term studies are needed to show that azapirones are effective in treating GAD, which is a chronic long-term illness.


  • Chessick, Cheryl A
  • Allen, Michael H
  • Thase, Michael E
  • Batista Miralha da Cunha, Angelo ABC
  • Kapczinski, Flavio
  • Silva de Lima, Mauricio
  • dos Santos Souza, Juliano JSS

publication date

  • July 19, 2006