This review article summarizes comparator-controlled, short-term studies with currently available selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the treatment of panic disorder and agoraphobia. Fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline and citalopram have all been proven to be superior to pill-placebo in the treatment of panic disorder, agoraphobia and associated symptoms such as depression. Direct comparisons with other antidepressants, benzodiazepines, cognitive-behavioural therapies or combinations of SSRIs with psychotherapeutic interventions are scarce. The majority of studies have reported on fluvoxamine whereas, to date, sertraline and citalopram have been compared only with placebo. Meta-analyses have suggested that combining an antidepressant with exposure in vivo produces the greatest treatment gains. Since this procedure is already commonly used in everyday clinical practice, it is recommended that future research in the treatment of panic disorder be directed towards the investigation of a combination of SSRIs with exposure therapy. (C) 2000 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.