Amitriptyline metabolism in elderly depressed patients and normal controls in relation to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system function

J. Schmider, M. Deuschle, U. Schweiger, A. Körner, U. Gotthardt, I. Heuser

5 Citations (Scopus)


The pharmacokinetics of amitriptyline (AMI) have been extensively studied, and a large interindividual variability between oral dose and concentration of the drug in plasma has been documented. The aim of this study was twofold: first, to compare AMI kinetics in depressed patients with those of healthy controls and, second, to describe the relationship between AMI levels in plasma and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system changes during depression. Thirty-eight patients with a DSM-III-R diagnosis of major depression and 13 healthy control persons received 75 mg of AMI daily for 6 weeks. Levels of AMI and nortriptyline in plasma were determined, and neuroendocrine testing with the combined dexamethasone-suppression/CRH-stimulation test (DST) was done before AMI administration and after weeks 1, 3, and 6 of medication. AMI levels in plasma were significantly higher in the patient group compared with controls during the entire treatment period, whereas nortriptyline levels did not differ between the two groups. Drug levels correlated significantly with age, but gender had no effect on the concentration of the drug in plasma. Twenty-two patients remitted after treatment. There was no difference in drug levels between responders and nonresponders. Fifteen patients were DST nonsuppressors before treatment; 23 patients and all controls suppressed cortisol after dexamethasone. DST suppressors had significantly higher AMI levels in plasma at weeks 3, 5, and 6 compared with DST nonsuppressors. In comparison to patients with high AMI levels in plasma, those with low drug concentration had higher postdexamethasone cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone levels and an increased hormone release after additional CRH. The pharmacokinetics of AMI are different in depressed patients compared with normal controls, and HPA status may determine different metabolic pathways of AMI in patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)250-258
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1995

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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