The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles announced Thursday it received $6.1 million to conduct research into the success of treatments for children’s anxiety, which affects one in five youth.
The study, which is funded through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, will be the first to measure the success rates of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication, the two common treatments for children with anxiety.
“There hasn’t yet been a head-to-head comparison for treatment strategies in real-world settings,” said Dr. Bradley Peterson, chief in the division of child psychiatry at CHLA. “We are excited to be able to lay this foundation and finally answer these questions.”
Each treatment has shown some success in treating patients, but when children don’t go into remission, medical professionals have to decide whether to continue with an intensified version of current treatment or add another treatment. Clinicians and families also have to consider cost and the time commitment of therapy when considering it against medications.
“This is a clinical question for every single child who is treated for anxiety across the world,” Peterson said. “Many factors go into the decision of whether to begin with CBT or medication.”
Peterson will collaborate with the U.S.’ leading experts in youth anxiety to compare the two treatment options’ success rates. In the study’s first phase, researchers will randomly give participants therapy or medication then assess them for 12 weeks.
Participants who do not go into remission will be reassigned either a larger amount of the same treatment or switched to the other treatment for another 12 weeks.
Researchers hope it will provide medical professionals and the families of children who experience anxiety with evidence-based guidance on the best way to proceed
The team also hopes to answer whether other factors — like severity of anxiety, age or socioeconomic status — affect the success rate of each treatment.
“If a child has more severe anxiety, for example, is it better to start with CBT or medication?” asked Dr. Peterson. “Then, if the first treatment doesn’t work, is it better to intensify current treatment or add the other treatment modality? The answers to these very important questions are unknown. Learning how each strategy affects treatment success could allow us to personalize our approach and treat each child more effectively.”
Peterson’s team includes Amy West, Ph.D.; Dr. Glenn Takata; Michele Kipke, Ph.D.; Ravi Bansal, Ph.D.; Dr. Bhavana Arora; Brad Hudson, Ph.D.; Stephanie Marcy, Ph.D.; and Marie Poulson, Ph.D.