, Volume 186, Issue 4, pp 601-611
Date: 22 Apr 2006

Time course of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis activity during treatment with reboxetine and mirtazapine in depressed patients

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Abstract

Rationale

In healthy subjects, cortisol and ACTH secretion are acutely stimulated by reboxetine and inhibited by mirtazapine. However, it was not investigated so far whether reboxetine and mirtazapine may also differ in their impact on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis activity in depressed patients and whether these effects are related to clinical outcome.

Objectives

In the present study, we investigated the impact of 5-week treatment with reboxetine or mirtazapine on the combined dexamethasone suppression/corticotropin releasing hormone (DEX/CRH) test results in depressed patients.

Methods

Forty drug-free patients suffering from a major depressive episode (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV criteria) were treated with either reboxetine (8 mg/day; n=20) or mirtazapine (45 mg/day; n=20) for 5 weeks. Before, after 1 and 5 weeks of therapy, the DEX/CRH test was performed and cortisol and ACTH concentrations were measured.

Results

During reboxetine treatment, a gradual and significant reduction in HPA axis activity as measured by the DEX/CRH test was seen, which was most pronounced after 5 weeks of treatment. In contrast, mirtazapine significantly reduced the cortisol and ACTH concentrations during the DEX/CRH test within 1 week. However, after 5 weeks of mirtazapine treatment, the cortisol and ACTH responses to the DEX/CRH test partially increased again both in responders and nonresponders.

Conclusions

This is the first study demonstrating differential effects of various antidepressants on the time course of serial DEX/CRH test results in depressed patients.