Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a chronic psychiatric disorder with significant morbidity and mortality. Antidepressant drugs are the preferred choice for treatment; however, treatment response is often variable. Several studies in major depression have implicated a role of the serotonin receptor gene (HTR2A) in treatment response to antidepressants. We tested the hypothesis that the genetic polymorphism rs7997012 in the HTR2A gene predicts treatment outcome in GAD patients treated with venlafaxine XR. Treatment response was assessed in 156 patients that participated in a 6-month open-label clinical trial of venlafaxine XR for GAD. Primary analysis included Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A) reduction at 6 months. Secondary outcome measure was the Clinical Global Impression of Improvement (CGI-I) score at 6 months. Genotype and allele frequencies were compared between groups using ¿(2) contingency analysis. The frequency of the G-allele differed significantly between responders (70%) and nonresponders (56%) at 6 months (P=0.05) using the HAM-A scale as outcome measure. Similarly, using the CGI-I as outcome, the G-allele was significantly associated with improvement (P=0.01). Assuming a dominant effect of the G-allele, improvement differed significantly between groups (P=0.001, odds ratio=4.72). Similar trends were observed for remission although not statistically significant. We show for the first time a pharmacogenetic effect of the HTR2A rs7997012 variant in anxiety disorders, suggesting that pharmacogenetic effects cross diagnostic categories. Our data document that individuals with the HTR2A rs7997012 single nucleotide polymorphism G-allele have better treatment outcome over time. Future studies with larger sample sizes are necessary to further characterize this effect in treatment response to antidepressants in GAD.The Pharmacogenomics Journal advance online publication, 18 October 2011; doi:10.1038/tpj.2011.47.
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