Drug Safety

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 219–227 | Cite as

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors

An Update on Drug Interactions
  • Martin G. Livingston
  • Hilary M. Livingston
Review Articles Drug Experience


After initial enthusiasm, the use of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) has been limited by the wide range of MAOI-drug and MAOI-food interactions that are possible, particularly with sympathomimetic medications or tyramine-containing foods, resulting in hypertensive reactions. Despite their clinical benefits, this has led to a reduction in use of such medications.

Discovery of the 2 main subgroups of monoamine oxidase, types A and B, led to the synthesis of MAOIs selective for one or other of these isoenzymes. Consequently, selegiline (deprenyl), a selective MAO-B inhibitor, was developed for the treatment of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. This drug is useful in the treatment of the early stages of the disease and later on as an adjunct to other drug therapies. Although the selective MAO-A inhibitor, clorgiline (clorgyline), was found to be effective in the treatment of depression, it still retained the potential to cause hypertensive reactions.

Recently, agents that are not only selective, but reversible in their inhibition of MAO-A (RIMAs) have been synthesised (e.g. moclobemide and toloxatone), and have proven antidepressant efficacy. Whilst they are less likely to induce hypertensive reactions with the concomitant administration of sympathomimetic drugs or with tyramine-rich foodstuffs, it still seems wise to advocate care in co-prescribing potentially interacting medications and to advise a degree of caution with regard to the dietary intake of foodstuffs likely to contain a high tyramine content. Although these newer drugs represent an advance in safety, their use has, as yet, only been established in the treatment of depression. RIMAs also retain a potential for adverse interaction with other drugs. Concomitant prescription of serotonin-enhancing drugs should only be undertaken with caution for patients on moclobemide, toloxatone or selegiline. Coprescription of sympathomimetic drugs should also be avoided with these newer MAOIs and patients should be advised against purchasing over-the-counter preparations that may contain sympathomimetic drugs.


Tyramine Selegiline Moclobemide Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor Serotonin Syndrome 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin G. Livingston
    • 1
  • Hilary M. Livingston
    • 2
  1. 1.University Department of Psychological Medicine, Academic Centre, Gartnavel Royal HospitalUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland
  2. 2.Dykebar HospitalPaisleyScotland

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