Escitalopram (escitalopram oxalate; Cipralex®, Lexapro®) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) and anxiety disorder. This drug exerts a highly selective, potent, and dose-dependent inhibitory effect on the human serotonin transport. By inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin into presynaptic nerve endings, this drug enhances the activity of serotonin in the central nervous system. Escitalopram also has allosteric activity. Moreover, the possibility of interacting with other drugs is considered low. This review covers randomized, controlled studies that enrolled adult patients with MDD to evaluate the efficacy of escitalopram based on the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The results showed that escitalopram was superior to placebo, and nearly equal or superior to other SSRIs (eg, citalopram, paroxetine, fluoxetine, sertraline) and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (eg, duloxetine, sustained-release venlafaxine). In addition, with long-term administration, escitalopram has shown a preventive effect on MDD relapse and recurrence. Escitalopram also showed favorable tolerability, and associated adverse events were generally mild and temporary. Discontinuation symptoms were milder with escitalopram than with paroxetine. In view of the patient acceptability of escitalopram, based on both a meta-analysis and a pooled analysis, this drug was more favorable than other new antidepressants. The findings indicate that escitalopram achieved high continuity in antidepressant drug therapy.
Keywords: escitalopram, MDD, SSRI, allosteric action, discontinuation symptoms