The bulk of the patients participating in clinical trials restricted to the learn more elderly are between 60 and 69 years of age, with very few over 75.2 Consequently, clinical recommendations for the use of antidepressant drugs in elderly patients have been largely derived from experience with young
or middle-aged adults.1,3 Furthermore, the elderly patients who do enter research studies represent an atypical sample of the older population, in that they are volunteers in generally good medical health, thus making it difficult to generalize trial results Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical to those who typically are encountered in primary care. A systematic review of clinical trials for late-life depression, performed in 1 991 concluded from over 30 randomized, placebo-controlled, double -blind clinical trials that antidepressants are more effective than placebo in the treatment of acute depression.4 Approximately 60% of patients Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical showed clinical improvement, although many patients retained significant residual
symptomatology. In general, the available antidepressants were considered to be equally effective in the elderly. These clinical trials were only of 3 to 8 weeks duration, assessing only acute response. The medications were largely tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), trazodone, and bupropion. Utilization data Over the last decade there has been a marked transformation in the types of antidepressants used clinically in the elderly. Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical Ten years ago, TCAs were used most commonly. Since the advent and marketing in the US of fluoxetine in 1988, there has been a gradual increase in the uses of selective serotonin reuptake Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical inhibitors (SSRIs) and diminished use of TCAs. In 1998, TCAs accounted for 21 % of use in patients 70 years of age or older and SSRIs Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical accounted for 56% (personal communication from Cathryn Clary MD, Pfizer, Inc). The other unique and mixed-action medications such as trazodone, vcnlafaxinc, bupropion, nefazodone, and mirtazapine accounted for the rest, ranging from 6.4% to 3.5% in the order of mention. The three major SSRIs of 1998, fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine, each accounted for approximately 15%
to 20% of uses (citalopram was not marketed until the last month of 1998). Amitriptyline was the most commonly Dichloromethane dehalogenase used TCA, accounting for 8.5% of uses, and used twice as commonly as nortriptyline (4.4%) or doxepin (3.5%). These data are all the more remarkable when the efficacy evidence base is considered, as it will be below. Tricyclic antidepressants Thus the most commonly used TCAs in the elderly are the tertiary amines amitriptyline and doxepin, and the secondary amine nortriptyline, together accounting for 80% of uses. Among the TCAs, the latter two have been preferred by geriatric experts because they have relatively more favorable side-effect profiles than amitriptyline and imipramine, both of which should generally be avoided in elderly patients.