Lurie Children’s Hospital Awarded $7 Million to Study Treatments for Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents

November 21, 2019

Award from PCORI will fund study on how well cognitive behavioral therapy works with and without medication


Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago was awarded $7 million by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to compare two approaches commonly used to treat pediatric anxiety disorders – cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) alone and CBT combined with antidepressant medication. Results from the study will help families make more informed decisions on the treatment of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents.

“Most families prefer to begin treatment for child and adolescent anxiety with CBT, but it is unclear if this is the best approach as some studies suggest that the combination of CBT and medication provides a much better outcome.” says the study principal investigator John Walkup, MD, Head of The Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our study will be the first to really compare CBT with and without medication in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders in real-world settings.  The results will inform what is the best initial treatment for the anxiety disorders.”

Anxiety disorders begin in childhood and adolescence. They are the most common of pediatric mental health conditions, with approximately 8-10 percent of all children and adolescents affected, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, the pediatric onset anxiety disorders are often underdiagnosed and undertreated. If left untreated, these conditions can be chronic and impairing into adulthood.

The Lurie Children’s study will identify children with separation, generalized and social anxiety disorders in pediatric primary care settings. Eligible patients with a confirmed anxiety diagnosis will be invited to participate in the study. Participants will be assigned to either six months of treatment with CBT or six months of treatment with CBT and medication with the goal to achieve remission (when a patient has no more symptoms, or they are very minimal). Brief monthly assessments will allow Dr. Walkup and colleagues to collect detailed information to determine what treatment is best for which child. They also will evaluate patients six months after the end of treatment to determine how well gains are maintained.

The Lurie Children’s study is among 21 projects approved by PCORI for funding. It is one of only three studies focused on children’s health.

Authorized by Congress in 2010, PCORI is an independent nonprofit organization that funds research to provide evidence-based information needed to make better healthcare decisions.

Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries.