Clinical Pharmacokinetics

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 307–330 | Cite as

Pharmacokinetic Optimisation of Therapy with Newer Antidepressants

  • Paul J. Goodnick
Review Article Pharmacokinetics-Therapeutics


Since the early 1950s, when imipramine was first introduced, a whole series of antidepressants with differences in structures, neurochemical effects and pharmacokinetics have been developed. Structurally or functionally, they have been classified as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), tetracyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), or selective serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In addition, there is a series of antidepressants with unique structures.

Many of the newer TCAs appear to have shorter half-lives than the standard TCAs (e.g. imipramine), allowing for the possibility of a more rapid response, but requiring the drugs to be given in multiple daily doses, which may reduce patient compliance. The short time to peak plasma concentration (tmax) can also lead to rapid onset of adverse effects. The tetracyclic antidepressants have longer elimination half-lives (t½) than the TCAs, but there is only very minimal evidence for a relationship between drug concentrations in the blood and clinical response. The triazolopyridines, like the newer TCAs, show pharmacokinetic evidence for rapid onset of adverse effects and the need for multiple daily doses due to short tmax and t½.

The newer MAOIs are a significant addition to therapy, as the rapid binding action of these medications increases their safety margin with regard to tyramine interactions. Further information in this area is required. In addition, moclobemide has pharmacokinetic features that are clinically beneficial (e.g. aging and renal dysfunction have little effect on the elimination of the drug), but also features that are not beneficial (e.g. nonlinear pharmacokinetics).

Among the SSRIs, there are a range of t½ values for the parent drugs, from relatively short t½ values of less than 24 hours (paroxetine, fluvoxamine) to among the longest found (e.g. 2 days for fluoxetine). Only 2 of the agents (sertraline and citalopram) have linear pharmacokinetics, and 1 drug has nonlinear pharmacokinetics within the usual therapeutic range (fluvoxamine). Once a therapeutic blood concentration is established, linearity is helpful in avoiding the small dose changes and repeated rechecking of concentrations of medications that would be required for those agents with nonlinear pharmacokinetics. Sertraline stands out as having the best effects on behaviour among all antidepressants. However, fluoxetine and fluvoxamine are least likely to penetrate into breast milk.

All 3 of the structurally unique newer antidepressants [amfebutamone (bupropion), viloxazine venlafaxine] have relatively short tmax values (1 to 2 hours), which may relate to the early onset of adverse effects. Amfebutamone has the benefits of linear pharmacokinetics with potential for defined therapeutic blood concentrations, lack of effect of liver enzymes on metabolism of the drug, and lack of significant effects of either aging or hepatic dysfunction on elimination of the drug.

Thus, the antidepressants best suited for pharmacokinetic optimisation of therapy are the following: desipramine, sertraline, fluvoxamine, citalopram and amfebutamone.


Fluoxetine Paroxetine Imipramine Sertraline Fluvoxamine 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul J. Goodnick
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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