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A Controlled Trial of Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Added to Stimulant Medication in Youth With Severe Mood Dysregulation

This study is currently recruiting participants. (see Contacts and Locations)
Verified January 30, 2017 by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) ( National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) ) Identifier:
First received: November 18, 2008
Last updated: April 20, 2017
Last verified: January 30, 2017

Severe mood dysregulation (SMD) is a very common syndrome in children. Its symptoms include very severe irritability, including persistent anger and frequent outbursts, as well as distractibility, hyperactivity, and other symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many children with SMD receive the diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BD) in the community, although they do not have clear manic episodes (with symptoms such as extreme happiness and decreased need for sleep). Because SMD has not been studied in depth, we do not know which medications are most helpful to those with SMD. This study will evaluate the effectiveness of the stimulant medication methylphenidate (MPH, more commonly known as Ritalin ) when combined (or not combined) with the antidepressant citalopram (Celexa ) in treating symptoms of SMD in children and adolescents. This study will provide information about how to treat SMD in youth.

This study will include approximately 80 patients between 7 and 17 years of age with SMD. The patient s symptoms must have started before age 12.

The study will consist of four phases carried out over 4 to 5 months. During Phase 1, the patient will undergo blood and urine tests, and will gradually taper off his or her medication. The duration of this phase depends on the patient s medication before starting the study. In Phase 2, the patient remains off all medication for 1 week. In Phase 3, the patient will be treated with MPH for 2 weeks, and then will be randomly assigned to receive either MPH plus citalopram or MPH plus a placebo for a further 8 weeks. In Phase 4, the researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of the medications taken, and begin an open treatment phase using medications that they deem appropriate for that patient (this may include MPH with citalopram and/or other medication combinations).

Most patients will be admitted to the Pediatric Behavioral Health Unit at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center during the medication withdrawal part of the study (Phases 1 and 2). From Phase 3 on, a patient may participate as an inpatient, outpatient, or in day treatment, depending on what is in his or her best interests.

Condition Intervention Phase
Mood Disorder
Mental Disorder Diagnosed in Childhood
Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Drug: Citalopram
Drug: Methylphenidate
Phase 2

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: A Controlled Trial of Citalopram Added to Methylphenidate in Youth With Severe Mood Dysregulation

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Clinical Global Impression -- Improvement; Aberrant Behavior Checklist irritability subscale [ Time Frame: Treatment trial is 10 weeks and the study will run for 4 years ]

Estimated Enrollment: 160
Study Start Date: November 17, 2008
Estimated Study Completion Date: October 20, 2020
Estimated Primary Completion Date: October 9, 2017 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Detailed Description:

Objective: To test the efficacy of citalopram plus methylphenidate vs. placebo plus methylphenidate in decreasing irritability in youth with severe mood dysregulation.

Study population: Youth ages 7-17 with severe mood dysregulation (SMD). SMD is characterized by nonepisodic, impairing irritability (defined as increased reactivity to negative emotional stimuli at least 3 times/week and angry or sad mood, most days, most of the time, noticeable to others) and hyperarousal (three of: distractibility, intrusiveness, pressured speech, racing thoughts, agitation, insomnia), with onset before age 12. Many of these children receive the diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BD) in the community, although they do not meet DSM-IV criteria for BD because of the lack of distinct manic episodes.

Design: Medication withdrawal, followed by a 5-week dose stabilization phase of methylphenidate and an 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment trial of citalopram plus methylphenidate vs. placebo plus methylphenidate. There will also be optional open treatment at the end, so that all patients have the opportunity to have a total of up to 10 weeks of citalopram plus methylphenidate. The target dose of citalopram will be 20-40 mg/day.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome measures will be the Aberrant Behavior Checklist Irritability subscale and the CGI-I.


Ages Eligible for Study:   7 Years to 17 Years   (Child)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

    1. Ages 7-17
    2. Abnormal mood (specifically, anger, sadness, and/or irritability), present at least half of the day most days, and of sufficient severity to be noticeable by people in the child s environment (e.g. parents, teachers, peers).
    3. Hyperarousal, as defined by at least three of the following symptoms: insomnia, agitation, distractibility, racing thoughts or flight of ideas, pressured speech, intrusiveness
    4. Compared to his/her peers, the child exhibits markedly increased reactivity to negative emotional stimuli that is manifest verbally and/or behaviorally. For example, the child responds to frustration with extended temper tantrums (inappropriate for age and/or precipitating event), verbal rages, and/or aggression toward people or property. Such events occur, on average, at least three times a week
    5. Criteria 2, 3, and 4 are currently present and have been present for at least 12 months without any symptom-free periods exceeding two months.
    6. The onset of symptoms must be prior to age 12 years.
    7. The symptoms are severe in at least one setting (e.g. violent outbursts, extreme verbal abuse, assaultiveness at home, school, or with peers). In addition, there are at least mild symptoms (distractibility, intrusiveness) in a second setting.
    8. Currently in treatment with a psychiatrist for the symptoms.
    9. The child is failing his/her treatment. To meet this criterion:

      i.The child s current CGAS score must be less than or equal to 60.

      ii.The child s psychiatrist/treater must agree that the child s response to his/her current treatment is no more than minimal. According to this criterion, it would be clinically appropriate to change the child s current treatment.

      iii.On the basis of record review and interviews with child and parent, the research team agrees that the child s response to his/her current treatment is no more than minimal.

      iv.The child has a score of greater than 12 on the irritability subscale of the Aberrant Behavior Checklist.


    1. As assessed in the mania section of the K-SADS-PL, the individual exhibits any of these cardinal bipolar symptoms in distinct periods lasting more than 1 day, and therefore meets criteria for bipolar disorder not otherwise specified:

      i) Elevated or expansive mood

      ii) Grandiosity or inflated self-esteem

      iii) Decreased need for sleep

      iv) Increase in goal-directed activity (this can result in the excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences)

    2. Meets criteria for schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective illness, more than mild PDD, or PTSD.
    3. Meets criteria for substance use disorder in the three months prior to randomization.
    4. IQ less than 70
    5. The symptoms are due to the direct physiological effects of a drug of abuse, or to a general medical or neurological condition.
    6. Currently pregnant or lactating, or sexually active without using a barrier method of contraception.
    7. Failed an adequate trial (defined as four weeks of consecutive treatment at the minimally effective) or severe ill effects while on citalopram (at least 20 mg) or escitalopram (at least 10 mg).
    8. Hypersensitivity or severe adverse reaction to methylphenidate
    9. A history of serious adverse reactions (psychosis, severely increased activation compared to baseline) to methylphenidate or amphetamines.
    10. Any chronic medical condition that requires medications that are contraindicated with SSRIs or methylphenidate, or any serious chronic or unstable medical disorder.
    11. Medical contraindications to treatment with SSRI or stimulant (e.g. liver, seizure, renal, platelet disorder).
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00794040

Contact: Ellen Leibenluft, M.D. (301) 496-9435

United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike Recruiting
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Contact: For more information at the NIH Clinical Center contact Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office (PRPL)    800-411-1222 ext TTY8664111010   
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Principal Investigator: Ellen Leibenluft, M.D. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  More Information

Additional Information:
Responsible Party: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Identifier: NCT00794040     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 090034
Study First Received: November 18, 2008
Last Updated: April 20, 2017

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Bipolar Mood Disorder
Mood Disorder
Childhood Mood Disorder

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Mood Disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
Mental Disorders
Psychotic Disorders
Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Problem Behavior
Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Pathologic Processes
Neurologic Manifestations
Nervous System Diseases
Signs and Symptoms
Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders
Behavioral Symptoms
Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
Central Nervous System Stimulants
Physiological Effects of Drugs
Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitors
Membrane Transport Modulators
Molecular Mechanisms of Pharmacological Action
Dopamine Agents
Neurotransmitter Agents
Serotonin Agents
Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation processed this record on April 21, 2017