Psychopharmacology

, Volume 166, Issue 3, pp 271–275

Attenuation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical hyperactivity in depressed patients by mirtazapine

  • Cornelius Schüle
  • Thomas Baghai
  • Peter Zwanzger
  • Robin Ella
  • Daniela Eser
  • Frank Padberg
  • Hans-Jürgen Möller
  • Rainer Rupprecht
Original Investigation
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Abstract

Rationale

It has been suggested that hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) system dysregulation plays an important role in the pathophysiology of depression and that normalization of HPA axis hyperactivity precedes successful treatment with antidepressants. Mirtazapine acts as an antagonist at presynaptic α2-receptors and at postsynaptic 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)2, 5-HT3 and histamine H1 receptors. It has been shown acutely to inhibit cortisol secretion in healthy subjects.

Objective

In this study, we investigated whether mirtazapine may downtune HPA axis hyperactivity in depressed patients and whether this is related to treatment outcome.

Methods

Forty patients suffering from a major depressive episode (DSM-IV criteria) were treated with mirtazapine for 5 weeks. The combined dexamethasone suppression/CRH stimulation test (DEX/CRH test) was performed before and after 1 week of mirtazapine treatment (45 mg daily).

Results

Mirtazapine effectively reduced the overshoot of cortisol and ACTH during the DEX/CRH test both in treatment responders and non-responders within 1 week.

Conclusions

Apparently, mirtazapine rapidly attenuates HPA axis hyperactivity in depressed patients via direct pharmacoendocrinological effects. However, this amelioration of HPA system dysregulation is not necessarily related to clinical improvement.

Keywords

Mirtazapine Depressive disorder Cortisol ACTH Dexamethasone suppression/CRH stimulation test Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal system 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cornelius Schüle
    • 1
  • Thomas Baghai
    • 1
  • Peter Zwanzger
    • 1
  • Robin Ella
    • 1
  • Daniela Eser
    • 1
  • Frank Padberg
    • 1
  • Hans-Jürgen Möller
    • 1
  • Rainer Rupprecht
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MunichMunichGermany

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