It has a distinct mechanism of action relative to other anti-anxiety agents (α2δ binding at presynaptic voltage dependent calcium channels leading to inhibition of excitatory neurotransmission), a rapid onset of effect (typically ≤1 week) and broad spectrum activity against both the psychic and somatic symptoms of GAD.
In long-term studies, pregabalin maintained improvements in anxiety symptoms that occurred in response to short-term treatment and delayed the time to relapse of GAD compared with placebo. Common comorbidities of GAD, such as insomnia, gastrointestinal symptoms and subsyndromal depression, have no effect on the anxiolytic efficacy of, and moreover are specifically improved by, pregabalin.
Treatment with pregabalin is generally well tolerated; the drug has an adverse event profile that includes dizziness, somnolence and weight gain. The potential for abuse of pregabalin is low; the risk of withdrawal symptoms is generally low when the drug is discontinued gradually (over 1 week).
Alongside selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), pregabalin is considered a first-line agent for the long-term treatment of GAD by the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry.
It should be stressed, however, that definitive head-to-head studies comparing pregabalin with SSRI/SNRIs, including in patients with GAD and co-morbid major depressive disorder, are currently lacking. Recently, a study of SSRI/SNRI augmentation with pregabalin yielded positive results, while another study of switching from long-term benzodiazepine therapy to pregabalin was inconclusive; further investigations on these topics are warranted.