What is Clonazepam?

Introduction

Clonazepam, sold under the brand name Klonopin among others, is a medication used to prevent and treat seizures, panic disorder, anxiety, and the movement disorder known as akathisia. It is a tranquiliser of the benzodiazepine class. It is typically taken by mouth. Effects begin within one hour and last between six and twelve hours.

Common side effects include sleepiness, poor coordination, and agitation. Long-term use may result in tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly. Dependence occurs in one-third of people who take clonazepam for longer than four weeks. There is an increased risk of suicide, particularly in people who are already depressed. If used during pregnancy it may result in harm to the foetus. Clonazepam binds to GABAA receptors, thus increasing the effect of the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Clonazepam was patented in 1960 and went on sale in 1975 in the United States from Roche. It is available as a generic medication. In 2019, it was the 46th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 15 million prescriptions. In many areas of the world it is commonly used as a recreational drug.

Medical Uses

Clonazepam is prescribed for short term management of epilepsy, anxiety, and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.

Seizures

Clonazepam, like other benzodiazepines, while being a first-line treatment for acute seizures, is not suitable for the long-term treatment of seizures due to the development of tolerance to the anticonvulsant effects.

Clonazepam has been found effective in treating epilepsy in children, and the inhibition of seizure activity seemed to be achieved at low plasma levels of clonazepam. As a result, clonazepam is sometimes used for certain rare childhood epilepsies; however, it has been found to be ineffective in the control of infantile spasms. Clonazepam is mainly prescribed for the acute management of epilepsies. Clonazepam has been found to be effective in the acute control of non-convulsive status epilepticus; however, the benefits tended to be transient in many people, and the addition of phenytoin for lasting control was required in these patients.

It is also approved for treatment of typical and atypical absences (seizures), infantile myoclonic, myoclonic, and akinetic seizures. A subgroup of people with treatment resistant epilepsy may benefit from long-term use of clonazepam; the benzodiazepine clorazepate may be an alternative due to its slow onset of tolerance.

Anxiety Disorders

  • Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.
  • Clonazepam has also been found effective in treating other anxiety disorders, such as social phobia, but this is an off-label use.

The effectiveness of clonazepam in the short-term treatment of panic disorder has been demonstrated in controlled clinical trials. Some long-term trials have suggested a benefit of clonazepam for up to three years without the development of tolerance but these trials were not placebo-controlled. Clonazepam is also effective in the management of acute mania.

Muscle Disorders

Restless legs syndrome can be treated using clonazepam as a third-line treatment option as the use of clonazepam is still investigational. Bruxism also responds to clonazepam in the short-term. Rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder responds well to low doses of clonazepam.

  • The treatment of acute and chronic akathisia induced by neuroleptics, also called antipsychotics.
  • Spasticity related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Other

  • Benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, are sometimes used for the treatment of mania or acute psychosis-induced aggression. In this context, benzodiazepines are given either alone, or in combination with other first-line drugs such as lithium, haloperidol, or risperidone. The effectiveness of taking benzodiazepines along with antipsychotic medication is unknown, and more research is needed to determine if benzodiazepines are more effective than antipsychotics when urgent sedation is required.
  • Hyperekplexia: A very rare neurologic disorder classically characterised by pronounced startle responses to tactile or acoustic stimuli and hypertonia.
  • Many forms of parasomnia and other sleep disorders are treated with clonazepam..
  • It is not effective for preventing migraines.

Contraindications

  • Coma.
  • Current alcohol use disorder.
  • Current substance use disorder.
  • Respiratory depression.

Adverse Effects

In September 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the boxed warning be updated for all benzodiazepine medicines to describe the risks of abuse, misuse, addiction, physical dependence, and withdrawal reactions consistently across all the medicines in the class.

Common

  • Sedation.
  • Motor impairment.

Less Common

  • Confusion.
  • Irritability and aggression.
  • Psychomotor agitation.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Loss of libido.
  • Impaired motor function.
  • Impaired coordination.
  • Impaired balance.
  • Dizziness.
  • Cognitive impairments.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Short-term memory loss.
  • Anterograde amnesia (common with higher doses).
  • Some users report hangover-like symptoms of drowsiness, headaches, sluggishness, and irritability upon waking up if the medication was taken before sleep.
    • This is likely the result of the medication’s long half-life, which continues to affect the user after waking up.
    • While benzodiazepines induce sleep, they tend to reduce the quality of sleep by suppressing or disrupting REM sleep.
    • After regular use, rebound insomnia may occur when discontinuing clonazepam.
  • Benzodiazepines may cause or worsen depression.

Occasional

  • Dysphoria.
  • Induction of seizures or increased frequency of seizures.
  • Personality changes.
  • Behavioural disturbances.
  • Ataxia.

Rare

  • Cognitive Euphoria.
  • Suicide through disinhibition.
  • Psychosis.
  • Incontinence.
  • Liver damage.
  • Paradoxical behavioural disinhibition (most frequently in children, the elderly, and in persons with developmental disabilities).
  • Rage.
  • Excitement.
  • Impulsivity.
  • The long-term effects of clonazepam can include depression, disinhibition, and sexual dysfunction.

Drowsiness

Clonazepam, like other benzodiazepines, may impair a person’s ability to drive or operate machinery. The central nervous system depressing effects of the drug can be intensified by alcohol consumption, and therefore alcohol should be avoided while taking this medication. Benzodiazepines have been shown to cause dependence. Patients dependent on clonazepam should be slowly titrated off under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional to reduce the intensity of withdrawal or rebound symptoms.

Withdrawal-Related

  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Tremors.
  • Headaches.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Suicidal thoughts or urges.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sweating.
  • Confusion.
  • Potential to exacerbate existing panic disorder upon discontinuation.
  • Seizures similar to delirium tremens (with long-term use of excessive doses).

Benzodiazepines such as clonazepam can be very effective in controlling status epilepticus, but, when used for longer periods of time, some potentially serious side-effects may develop, such as interference with cognitive functions and behaviour. Many individuals treated on a long-term basis develop a dependence. Physiological dependence was demonstrated by flumazenil-precipitated withdrawal. Use of alcohol or other central nervous system (CNS)-depressants while taking clonazepam greatly intensifies the effects (and side effects) of the drug.

A recurrence of symptoms of the underlying disease should be separated from withdrawal symptoms.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

Refer to Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome.

Like all benzodiazepines, clonazepam is a GABA-positive allosteric modulator. One-third of individuals treated with benzodiazepines for longer than four weeks develop a dependence on the drug and experience a withdrawal syndrome upon dose reduction. High dosage and long-term use increase the risk and severity of dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal seizures and psychosis can occur in severe cases of withdrawal, and anxiety and insomnia can occur in less severe cases of withdrawal. A gradual reduction in dosage reduces the severity of the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Due to the risks of tolerance and withdrawal seizures, clonazepam is generally not recommended for the long-term management of epilepsies. Increasing the dose can overcome the effects of tolerance, but tolerance to the higher dose may occur and adverse effects may intensify. The mechanism of tolerance includes receptor desensitisation, down regulation, receptor decoupling, and alterations in subunit composition and in gene transcription coding.

Tolerance to the anticonvulsant effects of clonazepam occurs in both animals and humans. In humans, tolerance to the anticonvulsant effects of clonazepam occurs frequently. Chronic use of benzodiazepines can lead to the development of tolerance with a decrease of benzodiazepine binding sites. The degree of tolerance is more pronounced with clonazepam than with chlordiazepoxide. In general, short-term therapy is more effective than long-term therapy with clonazepam for the treatment of epilepsy. Many studies have found that tolerance develops to the anticonvulsant properties of clonazepam with chronic use, which limits its long-term effectiveness as an anticonvulsant.

Abrupt or over-rapid withdrawal from clonazepam may result in the development of the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, causing psychosis characterised by dysphoric manifestations, irritability, aggressiveness, anxiety, and hallucinations. Sudden withdrawal may also induce the potentially life-threatening condition, status epilepticus. Anti-epileptic drugs, benzodiazepines such as clonazepam in particular, should be reduced in dose slowly and gradually when discontinuing the drug to mitigate withdrawal effects. Carbamazepine has been tested in the treatment of clonazepam withdrawal but was found to be ineffective in preventing clonazepam withdrawal-induced status epilepticus from occurring.

Overdose

Refer to Benzodiazepine Overdose.

Excess doses may result in:

  • Difficulty staying awake.
  • Mental confusion.
  • Impaired motor functions.
  • Impaired reflexes.
  • Impaired coordination.
  • Impaired balance.
  • Dizziness.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Coma.

Coma can be cyclic, with the individual alternating from a comatose state to a hyper-alert state of consciousness, which occurred in a four-year-old boy who overdosed on clonazepam. The combination of clonazepam and certain barbiturates (for example, amobarbital), at prescribed doses has resulted in a synergistic potentiation of the effects of each drug, leading to serious respiratory depression.

Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, confusion, muscle weakness, and fainting.

Detection in Biological Fluids

Clonazepam and 7-aminoclonazepam may be quantified in plasma, serum, or whole blood in order to monitor compliance in those receiving the drug therapeutically. Results from such tests can be used to confirm the diagnosis in potential poisoning victims or to assist in the forensic investigation in a case of fatal overdosage. Both the parent drug and 7-aminoclonazepam are unstable in biofluids, and therefore specimens should be preserved with sodium fluoride, stored at the lowest possible temperature and analysed quickly to minimise losses.

Special Precautions

The elderly metabolise benzodiazepines more slowly than younger people and are also more sensitive to the effects of benzodiazepines, even at similar blood plasma levels. Doses for the elderly are recommended to be about half of that given to younger adults and are to be administered for no longer than two weeks. Long-acting benzodiazepines such as clonazepam are not generally recommended for the elderly due to the risk of drug accumulation.

The elderly are especially susceptible to increased risk of harm from motor impairments and drug accumulation side effects. Benzodiazepines also require special precaution if used by individuals that may be pregnant, alcohol- or drug-dependent, or may have comorbid psychiatric disorders. Clonazepam is generally not recommended for use in elderly people for insomnia due to its high potency relative to other benzodiazepines.

Clonazepam is not recommended for use in those under 18. Use in very young children may be especially hazardous. Of anticonvulsant drugs, behavioural disturbances occur most frequently with clonazepam and phenobarbital.

Doses higher than 0.5-1 mg per day are associated with significant sedation.

Clonazepam may aggravate hepatic porphyria.

Clonazepam is not recommended for patients with chronic schizophrenia. A 1982 double-blinded, placebo-controlled study found clonazepam increases violent behaviour in individuals with chronic schizophrenia.

Clonazepam has similar effectiveness to other benzodiazepines at often a lower dose.

Interactions

Clonazepam decreases the levels of carbamazepine, and, likewise, clonazepam’s level is reduced by carbamazepine. Azole antifungals, such as ketoconazole, may inhibit the metabolism of clonazepam. Clonazepam may affect levels of phenytoin (diphenylhydantoin). In turn, Phenytoin may lower clonazepam plasma levels by increasing the speed of clonazepam clearance by approximately 50% and decreasing its half-life by 31%. Clonazepam increases the levels of primidone and phenobarbital.

Combined use of clonazepam with certain antidepressants, anticonvulsants (such as phenobarbital, phenytoin, and carbamazepine), sedative antihistamines, opiates, and antipsychotics, nonbenzodiazepines (such as zolpidem), and alcohol may result in enhanced sedative effects.

Pregnancy

There is some medical evidence of various malformations (for example, cardiac or facial deformations when used in early pregnancy); however, the data is not conclusive. The data are also inconclusive on whether benzodiazepines such as clonazepam cause developmental deficits or decreases in IQ in the developing foetus when taken by the mother during pregnancy. Clonazepam, when used late in pregnancy, may result in the development of a severe benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome in the neonate. Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines in the neonate may include hypotonia, apnoeic spells, cyanosis, and impaired metabolic responses to cold stress.

The safety profile of clonazepam during pregnancy is less clear than that of other benzodiazepines, and if benzodiazepines are indicated during pregnancy, chlordiazepoxide and diazepam may be a safer choice. The use of clonazepam during pregnancy should only occur if the clinical benefits are believed to outweigh the clinical risks to the foetus. Caution is also required if clonazepam is used during breastfeeding. Possible adverse effects of use of benzodiazepines such as clonazepam during pregnancy include: miscarriage, malformation, intrauterine growth retardation, functional deficits, carcinogenesis, and mutagenesis. Neonatal withdrawal syndrome associated with benzodiazepines include hypertonia, hyperreflexia, restlessness, irritability, abnormal sleep patterns, inconsolable crying, tremors, or jerking of the extremities, bradycardia, cyanosis, suckling difficulties, apnoea, risk of aspiration of feeds, diarrhoea and vomiting, and growth retardation. This syndrome can develop between three days to three weeks after birth and can have a duration of up to several months. The pathway by which clonazepam is metabolised is usually impaired in newborns. If clonazepam is used during pregnancy or breastfeeding, it is recommended that serum levels of clonazepam are monitored and that signs of central nervous system depression and apnoea are also checked for. In many cases, non-pharmacological treatments, such as relaxation therapy, psychotherapy, and avoidance of caffeine, can be an effective and safer alternative to the use of benzodiazepines for anxiety in pregnant women.

Pharmacology

Mechanism of Action

Clonazepam enhances the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the central nervous system to give its anticonvulsant, skeletal muscle relaxant, and anxiolytic effects. It acts by binding to the benzodiazepine site of the GABA receptors, which enhances the electric effect of GABA binding on neurons, resulting in an increased influx of chloride ions into the neurons. This further results in an inhibition of synaptic transmission across the central nervous system.

Benzodiazepines do not have any effect on the levels of GABA in the brain. Clonazepam has no effect on GABA levels and has no effect on gamma-aminobutyric acid transaminase. Clonazepam does, however, affect glutamate decarboxylase activity. It differs from other anticonvulsant drugs it was compared to in a study.

Clonazepam’s primary mechanism of action is the modulation of GABA function in the brain, by the benzodiazepine receptor, located on GABAA receptors, which, in turn, leads to enhanced GABAergic inhibition of neuronal firing. Benzodiazepines do not replace GABA, but instead enhance the effect of GABA at the GABAA receptor by increasing the opening frequency of chloride ion channels, which leads to an increase in GABA’s inhibitory effects and resultant central nervous system depression. In addition, clonazepam decreases the utilisation of 5-HT (serotonin) by neurons and has been shown to bind tightly to central-type benzodiazepine receptors. Because clonazepam is effective in low milligram doses (0.5 mg clonazepam = 10 mg diazepam), it is said to be among the class of “highly potent” benzodiazepines. The anticonvulsant properties of benzodiazepines are due to the enhancement of synaptic GABA responses, and the inhibition of sustained, high-frequency repetitive firing.

Benzodiazepines, including clonazepam, bind to mouse glial cell membranes with high affinity. Clonazepam decreases release of acetylcholine in the feline brain and decreases prolactin release in rats. Benzodiazepines inhibit cold-induced thyroid-stimulating hormone (also known as TSH or thyrotropin) release. Benzodiazepines act via micromolar benzodiazepine binding sites as Ca2+ channel blockers and significantly inhibit depolarisation-sensitive calcium uptake in experimentation on rat brain cell components. This has been conjectured as a mechanism for high-dose effects on seizures in the study.

Clonazepam is a 2′-chlorinated derivative of nitrazepam, which increases its potency due to electron-attracting effect of the halogen in the ortho-position.

Pharmacokinetics

Clonazepam is lipid-soluble, rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier, and penetrates the placenta. It is extensively metabolised into pharmacologically inactive metabolites, with only 2% of the unchanged drug excreted in the urine. Clonazepam is metabolised extensively via nitroreduction by cytochrome P450 enzymes, including CYP3A4. Erythromycin, clarithromycin, ritonavir, itraconazole, ketoconazole, nefazodone, cimetidine, and grapefruit juice are inhibitors of CYP3A4 and can affect the metabolism of benzodiazepines. It has an elimination half-life of 19-60 hours. Peak blood concentrations of 6.5-13.5 ng/mL were usually reached within 1-2 hours following a single 2 mg oral dose of micronized clonazepam in healthy adults. In some individuals, however, peak blood concentrations were reached at 4-8 hours.

Clonazepam passes rapidly into the central nervous system, with levels in the brain corresponding with levels of unbound clonazepam in the blood serum. Clonazepam plasma levels are very unreliable amongst patients. Plasma levels of clonazepam can vary as much as tenfold between different patients.

Clonazepam has plasma protein binding of 85%. Clonazepam passes through the blood-brain barrier easily, with blood and brain levels corresponding equally with each other. The metabolites of clonazepam include 7-aminoclonazepam, 7-acetaminoclonazepam and 3-hydroxy clonazepam. These metabolites are excreted by the kidney.

It is effective for 6-8 hours in children, and 6-12 in adults.

Society and Culture

Recreational Use

Refer to Benzodiazepine Misuse.

A 2006 US government study of hospital emergency department (ED) visits found that sedative-hypnotics were the most frequently implicated pharmaceutical drug in visits, with benzodiazepines accounting for the majority of these. Clonazepam was the second most frequently implicated benzodiazepine in ED visits. Alcohol alone was responsible for over twice as many ED visits as clonazepam in the same study. The study examined the number of times the non-medical use of certain drugs was implicated in an ED visit. The criteria for non-medical use in this study were purposefully broad, and include, for example, drug abuse, accidental or intentional overdose, or adverse reactions resulting from legitimate use of the medication.

Formulations

Clonazepam was approved in the United States as a generic drug in 1997 and is now manufactured and marketed by several companies.

Clonazepam is available as tablets and orally disintegrating tablets (wafers) an oral solution (drops), and as a solution for injection or intravenous infusion.

Brand Names

It is marketed under the trade name Rivotril by Roche in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia,[136] Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, China, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Peru, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States; Emcloz, Linotril and Clonotril in India and other parts of Europe; under the name Riklona in Indonesia and Malaysia; and under the trade name Klonopin by Roche in the United States. Other names, such as Clonoten, Ravotril, Rivotril, Iktorivil, Clonex (Israel), Paxam, Petril, Naze, Zilepam and Kriadex, are known throughout the world.

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clonazepam >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.

What is Butriptyline?

Introduction

Butriptyline, sold under the brand name Evadyne among others, is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) that has been used in the United Kingdom and several other European countries for the treatment of depression but appears to no longer be marketed. Along with trimipramine, iprindole, and amoxapine, it has been described as an “atypical” or “second-generation” TCA due to its relatively late introduction and atypical pharmacology. It was very little-used compared to other TCAs, with the number of prescriptions dispensed only in the thousands.

Brief History

Butriptyline was developed by Wyeth, an American pharmaceutical company, and introduced in the United Kingdom in either 1974 or 1975.

Medical Uses

Butriptyline was used in the treatment of depression. It was usually used at dosages of 150-300 mg/day.

Side Effects

Butriptyline is closely related to amitriptyline, and produces similar effects as other TCAs, but its side effects like sedation are said to be reduced in severity and it has a lower risk of interactions with other medications.

Butriptyline has potent antihistamine effects, resulting in sedation and somnolence. It also has potent anticholinergic effects, resulting in side effects like dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, blurred vision, and cognitive/memory impairment. The drug has relatively weak effects as an alpha-1 blocker and has no effects as a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, so is associated with little to no antiadrenergic and adrenergic side effects.

Overdose

Refer to Tricyclic Antidepressant Overdose.

Pharmacology

Pharmacodynamics

In vitro, butriptyline is a strong antihistamine and anticholinergic, moderate 5-HT2 and α1-adrenergic receptor antagonist, and very weak or negligible monoamine reuptake inhibitor. These actions appear to confer a profile similar to that of iprindole and trimipramine with serotonin-blocking effects as the apparent predominant mediator of mood-lifting efficacy.

However, in small clinical trials, using similar doses, butriptyline was found to be similarly effective to amitriptyline and imipramine as an antidepressant, despite the fact that both of these TCAs are far stronger as both 5-HT2 antagonists and serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. As a result, it may be that butriptyline has a different mechanism of action, or perhaps functions as a prodrug in the body to a metabolite with different pharmacodynamics.

Pharmacokinetics

Therapeutic concentrations of butriptyline are in the range of 60-280 ng/mL (204-954 nmol/L). Its plasma protein binding is greater than 90%.

Chemistry

Butriptyline is a tricyclic compound, specifically a dibenzocycloheptadiene, and possesses three rings fused together with a side chain attached in its chemical structure. Other dibenzocycloheptadiene TCAs include amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and protriptyline. Butriptyline is an analogue of amitriptyline with an isobutyl side chain instead of a propylidene side chain. It is a tertiary amine TCA, with its side chain-demethylated metabolite norbutriptyline being a secondary amine. Other tertiary amine TCAs include amitriptyline, imipramine, clomipramine, dosulepin (dothiepin), doxepin, and trimipramine. The chemical name of butriptyline is 3-(10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d]cycloheptene-5-yl)-N,N,2-trimethylpropan-1-amine and its free base form has a chemical formula of C21H27N with a molecular weight of 293.446 g/mol. The drug has been used commercially both as the free base and as the hydrochloride salt. The CAS Registry Number of the free base is 15686-37-0 and of the hydrochloride is 5585-73-9.

Society and Culture

Generic Names

Butriptyline is the English and French generic name of the drug and its International Non-Propriety Name (INN), British Approved Name (BAN), and Denomination Commune Francaise (DCF), while butriptyline hydrochloride is its BANM and (United States Adopted Name (USAN). Its generic name in Latin is butriptylinum, in German is butriptylin, and in Spanish is butriptylina.

Brand Names

Butriptyline has been marketed under the brand names Evadene, Evadyne, Evasidol, and Centrolese.

Availability

Butriptyline has been marketed in Europe, including in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, and Italy.

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butriptyline >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.

What is Bromazolam?

Introduction

Bromazolam (XLI-268) is a triazolobenzodiazepine (TBZD) which was first synthesised in 1976, but was never marketed. It has subsequently been sold as a designer drug, first being definitively identified by the EMCDDA in Sweden in 2016.

Outline

It is the bromo instead of chloro analogue of alprazolam and has similar sedative and anxiolytic effects to it and other benzodiazepines. Bromazolam is a non subtype selective agonist at the benzodiazepine site of GABAA receptors, with a binding affinity of 2.81nM at the α1 subtype, 0.69nM at α2 and 0.62nM at α5.

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromazolam >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.

What is Aripiprazole?

Introduction

Aripiprazole, sold under the brand names Abilify and Aristada among others, is an atypical antipsychotic. It is primarily used in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Other uses include as an add-on treatment in major depressive disorder (MDD), tic disorders and irritability associated with autism. It is taken by mouth or injection into a muscle. A Cochrane review found low-quality evidence of effectiveness in treating schizophrenia.

In adults, side effects with greater than 10% incidence include weight gain, headache, akathisia, insomnia, and gastro-intestinal effects like nausea and constipation, and lightheadedness. Side effects in children are similar, and include sleepiness, increased appetite, and stuffy nose. A strong desire to gamble, binge eat, shop, and engage in sexual activity may also occur.

Common side effects include vomiting, constipation, sleepiness, dizziness, weight gain and movement disorders. Serious side effects may include neuroleptic malignant syndrome, tardive dyskinesia and anaphylaxis. It is not recommended for older people with dementia-related psychosis due to an increased risk of death. In pregnancy, there is evidence of possible harm to the baby. It is not recommended in women who are breastfeeding. It has not been very well studied in people less than 18 years old. The exact mode of action is not entirely clear but may involve effects on dopamine and serotonin.

Aripiprazole was approved for medical use in the United States in 2002. It is available as a generic medication. In 2019, it was the 101st most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 6 million prescriptions. Aripiprazole was discovered in 1988 by scientists at the Japanese firm Otsuka Pharmaceutical.

Brief History

Aripiprazole was discovered by scientists at Otsuka Pharmaceutical and was called OPC-14597. It was first published in 1995. Otsuka initially developed the drug, and partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in 1999 to complete development, obtain approvals, and market aripiprazole.

It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for schizophrenia in November 2002, and the European Medicines Agency in June 2004; for acute manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder on 01 October 2004; as an adjunct for major depressive disorder on 20 November 2007; and to treat irritability in children with autism on 20 November 2009. Likewise it was approved for use as a treatment for schizophrenia by the TGA of Australia in May 2003.

Aripiprazole has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of both acute manic and mixed episodes, in people older than ten years.

In 2006, the FDA required manufacturers to add a black box warning to the label, warning that older people who were given the drug for dementia-related psychosis were at greater risk of death.

In 2007, aripiprazole was approved by the FDA for the treatment of unipolar depression when used adjunctively with an antidepressant medication. That same year, BMS settled a case with the US government in which it paid $515 million; the case covered several drugs but the focus was on BMS’s off-label marketing of aripiprazole for children and older people with dementia.

In 2011 Otsuka and Lundbeck signed a collaboration to develop a depot formulation of apripiprazole.

As of 2013, Abilify had annual sales of US$7 billion. In 2013 BMS returned marketing rights to Otsuka, but kept manufacturing the drug. Also in 2013, Otsuka and Lundbeck received US and European marketing approval for an injectable depot formulation of aripiprazole.

Otsuka’s US patent on aripiprazole expired on 20 October 2014, but due to a paediatric extension, a generic did not become available until 20 April 2015. Barr Laboratories (now Teva Pharmaceuticals) initiated a patent challenge under the Hatch-Waxman Act in March 2007. On 15 November 2010, this challenge was rejected by the US District Court in New Jersey.

Otsuka’s European patent EP0367141 which would have expired on 26 October 2009, was extended by a Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) to 26 October 2014. The UK Intellectual Property Office decided on 04 March 2015 that the SPC could not be further extended by six months under Regulation (EC) No 1901/2006. Even if the decision is successfully appealed, protection in Europe will not extend beyond 26 April 2015.

From April 2013 to March 2014, sales of Abilify amounted to almost $6.9 billion.

In April 2015, the FDA announced the first generic versions. In October 2015, aripiprazole lauroxil, a prodrug of aripiprazole that is administered via intramuscular injection once every four to six weeks for the treatment of schizophrenia, was approved by the FDA.

In 2016, BMS settled cases with 42 US states that had charged BMS with off-label marketing to older people with dementia; BMS agreed to pay $19.5 million.

In November 2017, the FDA approved Abilify MyCite, a digital pill containing a sensor intended to record when its consumer takes their medication.

Medical Uses

Aripiprazole is primarily used for the treatment of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia

The 2016 NICE guidance for treating psychosis and schizophrenia in children and young people recommended aripiprazole as a second line treatment after risperidone for people between 15 and 17 who are having an acute exacerbation or recurrence of psychosis or schizophrenia. A 2014 NICE review of the depot formulation of the drug found that it might have a role in treatment as an alternative to other depot formulations of second generation antipsychotics for people who have trouble taking medication as directed or who prefer it.

A 2014 Cochrane review comparing aripiprazole and other atypical antipsychotics found that it is difficult to determine differences as data quality is poor. A 2011 Cochrane review comparing aripiprazole with placebo concluded that high dropout rates in clinical trials, and a lack of outcome data regarding general functioning, behaviour, mortality, economic outcomes, or cognitive functioning make it difficult to definitively conclude that aripiprazole is useful for the prevention of relapse. A Cochrane review found only low quality evidence of effectiveness in treating schizophrenia. Accordingly, part of its methodology on quality of evidence is based on quantity of qualified studies.

A 2013 review found that it is in the middle range of 15 antipsychotics for effectiveness, approximately as effective as haloperidol and quetiapine and slightly more effective than ziprasidone, chlorpromazine, and asenapine, with better tolerability compared to the other antipsychotic drugs (4th best for weight gain, 5th best for extrapyramidal symptoms, best for prolactin elevation, 2nd best for QTc prolongation, and 5th best for sedation). The authors concluded that for acute psychotic episodes aripiprazole results in benefits in some aspects of the condition.

In 2013 the World Federation of Societies for Biological Psychiatry recommended aripiprazole for the treatment of acute exacerbations of schizophrenia as a Grade 1 recommendation and evidence level A.

The British Association for Psychopharmacology similarly recommends that all persons presenting with psychosis receive treatment with an antipsychotic, and that such treatment should continue for at least 1-2 years, as “There is no doubt that antipsychotic discontinuation is strongly associated with relapse during this period”. The guideline further notes that “Established schizophrenia requires continued maintenance with doses of antipsychotic medication within the recommended range (Evidence level A)”.

The British Association for Psychopharmacology and the World Federation of Societies for Biological Psychiatry suggest that there is little difference in effectiveness between antipsychotics in prevention of relapse, and recommend that the specific choice of antipsychotic be chosen based on each person’s preference and side effect profile. The latter group recommends switching to aripiprazole when excessive weight gain is encountered during treatment with other antipsychotics

Bipolar Disorder

Aripiprazole is effective for the treatment of acute manic episodes of bipolar disorder in adults, children, and adolescents. Used as maintenance therapy, it is useful for the prevention of manic episodes, but is not useful for bipolar depression. Thus, it is often used in combination with an additional mood stabiliser; however, co-administration with a mood stabiliser increases the risk of extrapyramidal side effects.

Major Depression

Aripiprazole is an effective add-on treatment for major depressive disorder; however, there is a greater rate of side effects such as weight gain and movement disorders. The overall benefit is small to moderate and its use appears to neither improve quality of life nor functioning. Aripiprazole may interact with some antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). There are interactions with fluoxetine and paroxetine and lesser interactions with sertraline, escitalopram, citalopram, and fluvoxamine, which inhibit CYP2D6, for which aripiprazole is a substrate. CYP2D6 inhibitors increase aripiprazole concentrations to 2-3 times their normal level.

Autism

Short-term data (8 weeks) shows reduced irritability, hyperactivity, inappropriate speech, and stereotypy, but no change in lethargic behaviours. Adverse effects include weight gain, sleepiness, drooling and tremors. It is suggested that children and adolescents need to be monitored regularly while taking this medication, to evaluate if this treatment option is still effective after long-term use and note if side effects are worsening. Further studies are needed to understand if this drug is helpful for children after long term use.

Tic Disorders

Aripiprazole is approved for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome. It is effective, safe, and well-tolerated for this use per systematic reviews and meta-analyses

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that add-on therapy with low dose aripiprazole is an effective treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that does not improve with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) alone. The conclusion was based on the results of two relatively small, short-term trials, each of which demonstrated improvements in symptoms. Risperidone, another second-generation antipsychotic, appears to be superior to aripiprazole for this indication, and is recommended by the 2007 American Psychiatric Association guidelines. However, aripiprazole is cautiously recommended by a 2017 review on antipsychotics for OCD. Aripiprazole is not currently approved for the treatment of OCD and is instead used off-label for this indication.

Adverse Effects

In adults, side effects with greater than 10% incidence include weight gain, headache, akathisia, insomnia, and gastro-intestinal effects like nausea and constipation, and lightheadedness. Side effects in children are similar, and include sleepiness, increased appetite, and stuffy nose. A strong desire to gamble, binge eat, shop, and engage in sexual activity may also occur.

Uncontrolled movement such as restlessness, tremors, and muscle stiffness may occur.

Discontinuation

The British National Formulary recommends a gradual withdrawal when discontinuing antipsychotics to avoid acute withdrawal syndrome or rapid relapse. Symptoms of withdrawal commonly include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms may include restlessness, increased sweating, and trouble sleeping. Less commonly there may be a feeling of the world spinning, numbness, or muscle pains. Symptoms generally resolve after a short period of time.

There is tentative evidence that discontinuation of antipsychotics can result in psychosis. It may also result in reoccurrence of the condition that is being treated. Rarely tardive dyskinesia can occur when the medication is stopped.

Overdose

Children or adults who ingested acute overdoses have usually manifested central nervous system depression ranging from mild sedation to coma; serum concentrations of aripiprazole and dehydroaripiprazole in these people were elevated by up to 3-4 fold over normal therapeutic levels; as of 2008 no deaths had been recorded.

Interactions

Aripiprazole is a substrate of CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. Coadministration with medications that inhibit (e.g. paroxetine, fluoxetine) or induce (e.g. carbamazepine) these metabolic enzymes are known to increase and decrease, respectively, plasma levels of aripiprazole.

Precautions should be taken in people with an established diagnosis of diabetes mellitus who are started on atypical antipsychotics along with other medications that affect blood sugar levels and should be monitored regularly for worsening of glucose control. The liquid form (oral solution) of this medication may contain up to 15 grams of sugar per dose.

Antipsychotics like aripiprazole and stimulant medications, such as amphetamine, are traditionally thought to have opposing effects to their effects on dopamine receptors: stimulants are thought to increase dopamine in the synaptic cleft, whereas antipsychotics are thought to decrease dopamine. However, it is an oversimplification to state the interaction as such, due to the differing actions of antipsychotics and stimulants in different parts of the brain, as well as the effects of antipsychotics on non-dopaminergic receptors. This interaction frequently occurs in the setting of comorbid attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (for which stimulants are commonly prescribed) and off-label treatment of aggression with antipsychotics. Aripiprazole has been reported to provide some benefit in improving cognitive functioning in people with ADHD without other psychiatric comorbidities, though the results have been disputed. The combination of antipsychotics like aripiprazole with stimulants should not be considered an absolute contraindication.

Pharmacology

Pharmacodynamics

Aripiprazole’s mechanism of action is different from those of the other FDA-approved atypical antipsychotics (e.g., clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone, and risperidone). It shows differential engagement at the dopamine receptor (D2). It appears to show predominantly antagonist activity on postsynaptic D2 receptors and partial agonist activity on presynaptic D2 receptors, D3, and partially D4 and is a partial activator of serotonin (5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2B, 5-HT6, and 5-HT7). It also shows lower and likely insignificant effect on histamine (H1), epinephrine/norepinephrine (α), and otherwise dopamine (D4), as well as the serotonin transporter. Aripiprazole acts by modulating neurotransmission overactivity of dopamine, which is thought to mitigate schizophrenia symptoms.

As a pharmacologically unique antipsychotic with pronounced functional selectivity, characterization of this dopamine D2 partial agonist (with an intrinsic activity of ~25%) as being similar to a full agonist but at a reduced level of activity presents a misleading oversimplification of its actions; for example, among other effects, aripiprazole has been shown, in vitro, to bind to and/or induce receptor conformations (i.e. facilitate receptor shapes) in such a way as to not only prevent receptor internalisation (and, thus, lower receptor density) but even to lower the rate of receptor internalisation below that of neurons not in the presence of agonists (including dopamine) or antagonists. It is often the nature of partial agonists, including aripiprazole, to display a stabilising effect (such as on mood in this case) with agonistic activity when there are low levels of endogenous neurotransmitters (such as dopamine) and antagonistic activity in the presence of high levels of agonists associated with events such as mania, psychosis, and drug use. In addition to aripiprazole’s partial agonism and functional selectivity characteristics, its effectiveness may be mediated by its very high dopamine D2 receptor occupancy (approximately 32%, 53%, 72%, 80%, and 97% at daily dosages of 0.5 mg, 1 mg, 2 mg, 10 mg, and 40 mg respectively) as well as balanced selectivity for pre- and postsynaptic receptors (as suggested by its equal affinity for both D2S and D2L receptor forms). Aripiprazole has been characterised as possessing predominantly antagonistic activity on postsynaptic D2 receptors and partial agonist activity on presynaptic D2 receptors; however, while this explanation intuitively explains the drug’s efficacy as an antipsychotic, as degree of agonism is a function of more than a drug’s inherent properties as well as in vitro demonstration of aripiprazole’s partial agonism in cells expressing postsynaptic (D2L) receptors, it was noted that “It is unlikely that the differential actions of aripiprazole as an agonist, antagonist, or partial agonist were entirely due to differences in relative D2 receptor expression since aripiprazole was an antagonist in cells with the highest level of expression (4.6 pmol/mg) and a partial agonist in cells with an intermediate level of expression (0.5-1 pmol/mg). Instead, the current data are most parsimoniously explained by the ‘functional selectivity’ hypothesis of Lawler et al (1999)”. Aripiprazole is also a partial agonist of the D3 receptor. In healthy human volunteers, D2 and D3 receptor occupancy levels are high, with average levels ranging between approximately 71% at 2 mg/day to approximately 96% at 40 mg/day. Most atypical antipsychotics bind preferentially to extrastriatal receptors, but aripiprazole appears to be less preferential in this regard, as binding rates are high throughout the brain.

Aripiprazole is also a partial agonist of the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor (intrinsic activity = 68%). Casting doubt on the significance of aripiprazole’s agonism of 5-HT1A receptors, a PET scan study of 12 patients receiving doses ranging from 10 to 30 mg found 5-HT1A receptor occupancy to be only 16% compared to ~90% for D2. It is a very weak partial agonist of the 5-HT2A receptor (intrinsic activity = 12.7%), and like other atypical antipsychotics, displays a functional antagonist profile at this receptor. The drug differs from other atypical antipsychotics in having higher affinity for the D2 receptor than for the 5-HT2A receptor. At the 5-HT2B receptor, aripiprazole has both great binding affinity and acts as a potent inverse agonist, “Aripiprazole decreased PI hydrolysis from a basal level of 61% down to a low of 30% at 1000 nM, with an EC50 of 11 nM”. Unlike other antipsychotics, aripiprazole is a high-efficacy partial agonist of the 5-HT2C receptor (intrinsic activity = 82%) and with relatively weak affinity; this property may underlie the minimal weight gain seen in the course of therapy. At the 5-HT7 receptor, aripiprazole is a very weak partial agonist with barely measurable intrinsic activity, and hence is a functional antagonist of this receptor. Aripiprazole also shows lower but likely clinically insignificant affinity for a number of other sites, such as the histamine H1, α-adrenergic, and dopamine D4 receptors as well as the serotonin transporter, while it has negligible affinity for the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors.

Since the actions of aripiprazole differ markedly across receptor systems aripiprazole was sometimes an antagonist (e.g. at 5-HT6 and D2L), sometimes an inverse agonist (e.g. 5-HT2B), sometimes a partial agonist (e.g. D2L), and sometimes a full agonist (D3, D4). Aripiprazole was frequently found to be a partial agonist, with an intrinsic activity that could be low (D2L, 5-HT2A, 5-HT7), intermediate (5-HT1A), or high (D4, 5-HT2C). This mixture of agonist actions at D2-dopamine receptors is consistent with the hypothesis that aripiprazole has ‘functionally selective’ actions. The ‘functional-selectivity’ hypothesis proposes that a mixture of agonist/partial agonist/antagonist actions are likely. According to this hypothesis, agonists may induce structural changes in receptor conformations that are differentially ‘sensed’ by the local complement of G proteins to induce a variety of functional actions depending upon the precise cellular milieu. The diverse actions of aripiprazole at D2-dopamine receptors are clearly cell-type specific (e.g. agonism, antagonism, partial agonism), and are most parsimoniously explained by the ‘functional selectivity’ hypothesis.

Since 5-HT2C receptors have been implicated in the control of depression, OCD, and appetite, agonism at the 5-HT2C receptor might be associated with therapeutic potential in obsessive compulsive disorder, obesity, and depression. 5-HT2C agonism has been demonstrated to induce anorexia via enhancement of serotonergic neurotransmission via activation of 5-HT2C receptors; it is conceivable that the 5-HT2C agonist actions of aripiprazole may, thus, be partly responsible for the minimal weight gain associated with this compound in clinical trials. In terms of potential action as an anti-obsessional agent, it is worthwhile noting that a variety of 5-HT2A/5-HT2C agonists have shown promise as anti-obsessional agents, yet many of these compounds are hallucinogenic, presumably due to 5-HT2A activation. Aripiprazole has a favourable pharmacological profile in being a 5-HT2A antagonist and a 5-HT2C partial agonist. Based on this profile, one can predict that aripiprazole may have anti-obsessional and anorectic actions in humans.

Wood and Reavill’s (2007) review of published and unpublished data proposed that, at therapeutically relevant doses, aripiprazole may act essentially as a selective partial agonist of the D2 receptor without significantly affecting the majority of serotonin receptors. A positron emission tomography imaging study found that 10 to 30 mg/day aripiprazole resulted in 85 to 95% occupancy of the D2 receptor in various brain areas (putamen, caudate, ventral striatum) versus 54 to 60% occupancy of the 5-HT2A receptor and only 16% occupancy of the 5-HT1A receptor. It has been suggested that the low occupancy of the 5-HT1A receptor by aripiprazole may have been an erroneous measurement however.

Aripiprazole acts by modulating neurotransmission overactivity on the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway, which is thought to be a cause of positive schizophrenia symptoms. Due to its agonist activity on D2 receptors, aripiprazole may also increase dopaminergic activity to optimal levels in the mesocortical pathways where it is reduce.

Pharmacokinetics

Aripiprazole displays linear kinetics and has an elimination half-life of approximately 75 hours. Steady-state plasma concentrations are achieved in about 14 days. Cmax (maximum plasma concentration) is achieved 3-5 hours after oral dosing. Bioavailability of the oral tablets is about 90% and the drug undergoes extensive hepatic metabolization (dehydrogenation, hydroxylation, and N-dealkylation), principally by the enzymes CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. Its only known active metabolite is dehydro-aripiprazole, which typically accumulates to approximately 40% of the aripiprazole concentration. The parenteral drug is excreted only in traces, and its metabolites, active or not, are excreted via faeces and urine.

Chemistry

Aripiprazole is a phenylpiperazine and is chemically related to nefazodone, etoperidone, and trazodone. It is unusual in having twelve known crystalline polymorphs.

Society and Culture

Classification

Aripiprazole has been described as the prototypical third-generation antipsychotic, as opposed to first-generation (typical) antipsychotics like haloperidol and second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics like clozapine. It has received this classification due to its partial agonism of dopamine receptors, and is the first of its kind in this regard among antipsychotics, which before aripiprazole acted only as dopamine receptor antagonists. The introduction of aripiprazole has led to a paradigm shift from a dopamine antagonist-based approach to a dopamine agonist-based approach for antipsychotic drug development.

Research

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Aripiprazole was under development for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but development for this indication was discontinued. A 2017 meta review found only preliminary evidence (studies with small sample sizes and methodological problems) for aripiprazole in the treatment of ADHD. A 2013 systematic review of aripiprazole for ADHD similarly reported that there is insufficient evidence of effectiveness to support aripiprazole as a treatment for the condition. Although all 6 non-controlled open-label studies in the review reported effectiveness, two small randomised controlled trials found that aripiprazole did not significantly decrease ADHD symptoms. A high rate of adverse effects with aripiprazole such as weight gain, sedation, and headache was noted. Most research on aripiprazole for ADHD is in children and adolescents. Evidence on aripiprazole specifically for adult ADHD appears to be limited to a single case report.

Substance Dependence

Aripiprazole has been studied for the treatment of amphetamine dependence and other substance use disorders, but more research is needed to support aripiprazole for these potential uses. Available evidence of aripiprazole for amphetamine dependence is mixed. Some studies have reported attenuation of the effects of amphetamines by aripiprazole, whereas other studies have reported both enhancement of the effects of amphetamines and increased use of amphetamines by aripiprazole. As such, aripiprazole may not only be ineffective but potentially harmful for treatment of amphetamine dependence, and caution is warranted with regard to its use for such purposes.

Other Uses

Aripiprazole is under development for the treatment of agitation and pervasive child development disorders. As of May 2021, it is in phase 3 clinical trials for these indications.

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aripiprazole >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.

What is Amoxapine?

Introduction

Amoxapine, sold under the brand name Asendin among others, is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCAs). It is the N-demethylated metabolite of loxapine. Amoxapine first received marketing approval in the United States in 1992 (approximately 30 to 40 years after most of the other TCAs were introduced in the United States).

Medical Uses

Moxapine is used in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). Compared to other antidepressants it is believed to have a faster onset of action, with therapeutic effects seen within four to seven days. In excess of 80% of patients that do respond to amoxapine are reported to respond within two weeks of the beginning of treatment. It also has properties similar to those of the atypical antipsychotics, and may behave as one and may be used in the treatment of schizophrenia off-label. Despite its apparent lack of extrapyramidal side effects in patients with schizophrenia it has been found to exacerbate motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease and psychosis.

Contraindications

As with all US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antidepressants it carries a black-box warning about the potential of an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviour in children, adolescents and young adults under the age of 25. Its use is also advised against in individuals with known hypersensitivities to either amoxapine or other ingredients in its oral formulations. Its use is also recommended against in the following disease states:

  • Severe cardiovascular disorders (potential of cardiotoxic adverse effects such as QT interval prolongation).
  • Uncorrected narrow angle glaucoma.
  • Acute recovery post-myocardial infarction.

Its use is also advised against in individuals concurrently on monoamine oxidase inhibitors or if they have been on one in the past 14 days and in individuals on drugs that are known to prolong the QT interval (e.g. ondansetron, citalopram, pimozide, sertindole, ziprasidone, haloperidol, chlorpromazine, thioridazine, etc.).

Lactation

Its use in breastfeeding mothers not recommended as it is excreted in breast milk and the concentration found in breast milk is approximately a quarter that of the maternal serum level.

Side Effects

Very Common (>10% Incidence) Adverse Effects Include:

  • Constipation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sedation.

Common (1–10% Incidence) Adverse Effects Include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Ataxia.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Confusion.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Nervousness/restlessness.
  • Excessive appetite.
  • Rash.
  • Increased perspiration (sweating).
  • Tremor.
  • Palpitations.
  • Nightmares.
  • Excitement.
  • Weakness.
  • ECG changes.
  • Oedema.
    • An abnormal accumulation of fluids in the tissues of the body leading to swelling.
  • Prolactin levels increased.
    • Prolactin is a hormone that regulates the generation of breast milk.
    • Prolactin elevation is not as significant as with risperidone or haloperidol.

Uncommon/Rare (<1% Incidence) Adverse Effects Include:

  • Diarrhoea.
  • Flatulence.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure).
  • Syncope (fainting).
  • Tachycardia (high heart rate).
  • Menstrual irregularity.
  • Disturbance of accommodation.
  • Mydriasis (pupil dilation).
  • Orthostatic hypotension (a drop in blood pressure that occurs upon standing up).
  • Seizure.
  • Urinary retention (being unable to pass urine).
  • Urticaria (hives).
  • Vomiting.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Photosensitisation
  • Hypomania (a dangerously elated/irritable mood).
  • Tingling.
  • Paresthaesias of the extremities.
  • Tinnitus.
  • Disorientation.
  • Numbness.
  • Incoordination.
  • Disturbed concentration.
  • Epigastric distress.
  • Peculiar taste in the mouth.
  • Increased or decreased libido.
  • Impotence (difficulty achieving an erection).
  • Painful ejaculation.
  • Lacrimation (crying without an emotional cause).
  • Weight gain.
  • Altered liver function.
  • Breast enlargement.
  • Drug fever.
  • Pruritus (itchiness).
  • Vasculitis a disorder where blood vessels are destroyed by inflammation.
    • Can be life-threatening if it affects the right blood vessels.
  • Galactorrhoea:
    • Lactation that is not associated with pregnancy or breast feeding.
  • Delayed micturition:
    • That is, delays in urination from when a conscious effort to urinate is made.
  • Hyperthermia:
    • Elevation of body temperature; its seriousness depends on the extent of the hyperthermia.
  • Syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH) this is basically when the body’s level of the hormone, antidiuretic hormone, which regulates the conservation of water and the restriction of blood vessels, is elevated.
    • This is potentially fatal as it can cause electrolyte abnormalities including hyponatraemia (low blood sodium), hypokalaemia (low blood potassium) and hypocalcaemia (low blood calcium) which can be life-threatening.
  • Agranulocytosis a drop in white blood cell counts.
    • The white blood cells are the cells of the immune system that fight off foreign invaders.
    • Hence agranulocytosis leaves an individual open to life-threatening infections.
  • Leukopaenia the same as agranulocytosis but less severe.
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (a potentially fatal reaction to antidopaminergic agents, most often antipsychotics.
    • It is characterised by hyperthermia, diarrhoea, tachycardia, mental status changes [e.g. confusion], rigidity, extrapyramidal side effects)
  • Tardive dyskinesia a most often irreversible neurologic reaction to antidopaminergic treatment, characterised by involuntary movements of facial muscles, tongue, lips, and other muscles.
    • It develops most often only after prolonged (months, years or even decades) exposure to antidopaminergics.
  • Extrapyramidal side effects.
    • Motor symptoms such as tremor, parkinsonism, involuntary movements, reduced ability to move one’s voluntary muscles, etc.

Unknown Incidence or Relationship to Drug Treatment Adverse Effects Include:

  • Paralytic ileus (paralysed bowel).
  • Atrial arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation.
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack).
  • Stroke.
  • Heart block.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Purpura.
  • Petechiae.
  • Parotid swelling.
  • Changes in blood glucose levels.
  • Pancreatitis swelling of the pancreas.
  • Hepatitis swelling of the liver.
  • Urinary frequency.
  • Testicular swelling.
  • Anorexia (weight loss).
  • Alopecia (hair loss).
  • Thrombocytopenia:
    • A significant drop in platelet count that leaves one open to life-threatening bleeds.
  • Eosinophilia an elevated level of the eosinophils of the body.
    • Eosinophils are the type of immune cell that’s job is to fight off parasitic invaders.
  • Jaundice:
    • yellowing of the skin, eyes and mucous membranes due to an impaired ability of the body to clear the by product of haem breakdown, bilirubin, most often the result of liver damage as it is the liver’s responsibility to clear bilirubin.

It tends to produce less anticholinergic effects, sedation and weight gain than some of the earlier TCAs (e.g. amitriptyline, clomipramine, doxepin, imipramine, trimipramine). It may also be less cardiotoxic than its predecessors.

Overdose

Refer to Tricyclic Antidepressant Overdose.

It is considered particularly toxic in overdose, with a high rate of renal failure (which usually takes 2-5 days), rhabdomyolysis, coma, seizures and even status epilepticus. Some believe it to be less cardiotoxic than other TCAs in overdose, although reports of cardiotoxic overdoses have been made.

Pharmacology

Pharmacodynamics

Amoxapine possesses a wide array of pharmacological effects. It is a moderate and strong reuptake inhibitor of serotonin and norepinephrine, respectively, and binds to the 5-HT2A, 5-HT2B, 5-HT2C, 5-HT3, 5-HT6, 5-HT7, D2, α1-adrenergic, D3, D4, and H1 receptors with varying but significant affinity, where it acts as an antagonist (or inverse agonist depending on the receptor in question) at all sites. It has weak but negligible affinity for the dopamine transporter and the 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, D1, α2-adrenergic, H4, mACh, and GABAA receptors, and no affinity for the β-adrenergic receptors or the allosteric benzodiazepine site on the GABAA receptor. Amoxapine is also a weak GlyT2 blocker, as well as a weak (Ki = 2.5 μM, EC50 = 0.98 μM) δ-opioid receptor partial agonist.

7-Hydroxyamoxapine, a major active metabolite of amoxapine, is a more potent dopamine receptor antagonist and contributes to its neuroleptic efficacy, whereas 8-hydroxyamoxapine is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor but a stronger serotonin reuptake inhibitor and helps to balance amoxapine’s ratio of serotonin to norepinephrine transporter blockade

Pharmacokinetics

Amoxapine is metabolised into two main active metabolites: 7-hydroxyamoxapine and 8-hydroxyamoxapine.

Society and Culture

Brand Names

Brand names for amoxapine include (where † denotes discontinued brands):

  • Adisen (KR).
  • Amolife (IN).
  • Amoxan (JP).
  • Asendin† (previously marketed in CA, NZ, US).
  • Asendis† (previously marketed in IE, UK).
  • Défanyl (FR).
  • Demolox (DK†, IN, ES†).
  • Oxamine (IN).
  • Oxcap.

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amoxapine >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.

What is Amitriptyline?

Introduction

Amitriptyline, sold under the brand name Elavil among others, is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) primarily used to treat cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), major depressive disorder (MDD) and a variety of pain syndromes from neuropathic pain to fibromyalgia to migraine and tension headaches. Due to the frequency and prominence of side effects, amitriptyline is generally considered a second-line therapy for these indications.

The most common side effects are dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, and weight gain. Of note is sexual dysfunction, observed primarily in males. Glaucoma, liver toxicity and abnormal heart rhythms are rare but serious side effects. Blood levels of amitriptyline vary significantly from one person to another, and amitriptyline interacts with many other medications potentially aggravating its side effects.

Amitriptyline was discovered in the late 1950s by scientists at Merck and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1961. It is on the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines. It is available as a generic medication. In 2019, it was the 94th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 8 million prescriptions.

Brief History

Amitriptyline was first developed by the American pharmaceutical company Merck in the late 1950s. In 1958, Merck approached a number of clinical investigators proposing to conduct clinical trials of amitriptyline for schizophrenia. One of these researchers, Frank Ayd, instead, suggested using amitriptyline for depression. Ayd treated 130 patients and, in 1960, reported that amitriptyline had antidepressant properties similar to another, and the only known at the time, tricyclic antidepressant imipramine. Following this, the FDA approved amitriptyline for depression in 1961.

In Europe, due to a quirk of the patent law at the time allowing patents only on the chemical synthesis but not on the drug itself, Roche and Lundbeck were able to independently develop and market amitriptyline in the early 1960s.

According to research by the historian of psychopharmacology David Healy, amitriptyline became a much bigger selling drug than its precursor imipramine because of two factors. First, amitriptyline has much stronger anxiolytic effect. Second, Merck conducted a marketing campaign raising clinicians’ awareness of depression as a clinical entity.

Medical Uses

Amitriptyline is indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorder and neuropathic pain and for the prevention of migraine and chronic tension headache. It can be used for the treatment of nocturnal enuresis in children older than 6 after other treatments have failed.

Depression

Amitriptyline is effective for depression, but it is rarely used as a first-line antidepressant due to its higher toxicity in overdose and generally poorer tolerability. It can be tried for depression as a second-line therapy, after the failure of other treatments. For treatment-resistant adolescent depression or for cancer-related depression amitriptyline is no better than placebo. It is sometimes used for the treatment of depression in Parkinson’s disease, but supporting evidence for that is lacking.

Pain

Amitriptyline alleviates painful diabetic neuropathy. It is recommended by a variety of guidelines as a first or second line treatment. It is as effective for this indication as gabapentin or pregabalin but less well tolerated.

Low doses of amitriptyline moderately improve sleep disturbances and reduce pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. It is recommended for fibromyalgia accompanied by depression by Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany and as a second-line option for fibromyalgia, with exercise being the first line option, by European League Against Rheumatism. Combinations of amitriptyline and fluoxetine or melatonin may reduce fibromyalgia pain better than either medication alone.

There is some (low-quality) evidence that amitriptyline may reduce pain in cancer patients. It is recommended only as a second line therapy for non-chemotherapy-induced neuropathic or mixed neuropathic pain, if opioids did not provide the desired effect.

Moderate evidence exists in favour of amitriptyline use for atypical facial pain. Amitriptyline is ineffective for HIV-associated neuropathy.

Headache

Amitriptyline is probably effective for the prevention of periodic migraine in adults. Amitriptyline is similar in efficacy to venlafaxine and topiramate but carries a higher burden of adverse effects than topiramate. For many patients, even very small doses of amitriptyline are helpful, which may allow for minimization of side effects. Amitriptyline is not significantly different from placebo when used for the prevention of migraine in children.

Amitriptyline may reduce the frequency and duration of chronic tension headache, but it is associated with worse adverse effects than mirtazapine. Overall, amitriptyline is recommended for tension headache prophylaxis, along with lifestyle advice, which should include avoidance of analgesia and caffeine.

Other Indications

Amitriptyline is effective for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome; however, because of its side effects, it should be reserved for select patients for whom other agents do not work. There is insufficient evidence to support its use for abdominal pain in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders.

Tricyclic antidepressants decrease the frequency, severity, and duration of cyclic vomiting syndrome episodes. Amitriptyline, as the most commonly used of them, is recommended as a first-line agent for its therapy.

Amitriptyline may improve pain and urgency intensity associated with bladder pain syndrome and can be used in the management of this syndrome. Amitriptyline can be used in the treatment of nocturnal enuresis in children. However, its effect is not sustained after the treatment ends. Alarm therapy gives better short- and long-term results.

In the US, amitriptyline is commonly used in children with ADHD as an adjunct to stimulant medications without any evidence or guideline supporting this practice. Many physicians in the UK (and the US also) commonly prescribe amitriptyline for insomnia; however, Cochrane reviewers were not able to find any randomised controlled studies that would support or refute this practice.

Contraindications and Precautions

The known contraindications of amitriptyline are:

  • History of myocardial infarction.
  • History of arrhythmias, particularly any degree of heart block.
  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Porphyria.
  • Severe liver disease (such as cirrhosis).
  • Being under six years of age.
  • Patients who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or have taken them within the last 14 days.

Amitriptyline should be used with caution in patients with epilepsy, impaired liver function, pheochromocytoma, urinary retention, prostate enlargement, hyperthyroidism, and pyloric stenosis.

In patients with the rare condition of shallow anterior chamber of eyeball and narrow anterior chamber angle, amitriptyline may provoke attacks of acute glaucoma due to dilation of the pupil. It may aggravate psychosis, if used for depression with schizophrenia, or precipitate the switch to mania in those with bipolar disorder.

CYP2D6 poor metabolisers should avoid amitriptyline due to increased side effects. If it is necessary to use it, half dose is recommended. Amitriptyline can be used during pregnancy and lactation, in the cases when SSRI do not work.

Side Effects

The most frequent side effects, occurring in 20% or more of users, are dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, and weight gain (on average 1.8 kg). Other common side effects (in 10% or more) are vision problems (amblyopia, blurred vision), tachycardia, increased appetite, tremor, fatigue/asthenia/feeling slowed down, and dyspepsia.

A literature review about abnormal movements and amitriptyline found that this drug is associated with various movement disorders, particularly dyskinesia, dystonia, and myoclonus. Stuttering and restless legs syndrome are some of the less common associations.

A less common side effect of amitriptyline is urination problems (8.7%).

Amitriptyline-associated sexual dysfunction (occurring at a frequency of 6.9%) seems to be mostly confined to males with depression and is expressed predominantly as erectile dysfunction and low libido disorder, with lesser frequency of ejaculatory and orgasmic problems. The rate of sexual dysfunction in males treated for indications other than depression and in females is not significantly different from placebo.

Liver tests abnormalities occur in 10-12% of patients on amitriptyline, but are usually mild, asymptomatic and transient, with consistently elevated alanine transaminase in 3% of all patients. The increases of the enzymes above the 3-fold threshold of liver toxicity are uncommon, and cases of clinically apparent liver toxicity are rare; nevertheless, amitriptyline is placed in the group of antidepressants with greater risks of hepatic toxicity.

Amitriptyline prolongs the QT interval. This prolongation is relatively small at therapeutic doses but becomes severe in overdose.

Overdose

Refer to Tricyclic Antidepressant Overdose.

The symptoms and the treatment of an overdose are largely the same as for the other TCAs, including the presentation of serotonin syndrome and adverse cardiac effects. The British National Formulary notes that amitriptyline can be particularly dangerous in overdose, thus it and other TCAs are no longer recommended as first-line therapy for depression. The treatment of overdose is mostly supportive as no specific antidote for amitriptyline overdose is available. Activated charcoal may reduce absorption if given within 1-2 hours of ingestion. If the affected person is unconscious or has an impaired gag reflex, a nasogastric tube may be used to deliver the activated charcoal into the stomach. ECG monitoring for cardiac conduction abnormalities is essential and if one is found close monitoring of cardiac function is advised. Body temperature should be regulated with measures such as heating blankets if necessary. Cardiac monitoring is advised for at least five days after the overdose. Benzodiazepines are recommended to control seizures. Dialysis is of no use due to the high degree of protein binding with amitriptyline.

Interactions

Since amitriptyline and its active metabolite nortriptyline are primarily metabolised by cytochromes CYP2D6 and CYP2C19, the inhibitors of these enzymes are expected to exhibit pharmacokinetic interactions with amitriptyline. According to the prescribing information, the interaction with CYP2D6 inhibitors may increase the plasma level of amitriptyline. However, the results in the other literature are inconsistent: the co-administration of amitriptyline with a potent CYP2D6 inhibitor paroxetine does increase the plasma levels of amitriptyline two-fold and of the main active metabolite nortriptyline 1.5-fold, but combination with less potent CYP2D6 inhibitors thioridazine or levomepromazine does not affect the levels of amitriptyline and increases nortriptyline by about 1.5-fold; a moderate CYP2D6 inhibitor fluoxetine does not seem to have a significant effect on the levels of amitriptyline or nortriptyline. A case of clinically significant interaction with potent CYP2D6 inhibitor terbinafine has been reported.

A potent inhibitor of CYP2C19 and other cytochromes fluvoxamine increases the level of amitriptyline two-fold while slightly decreasing the level of nortriptyline. Similar changes occur with a moderate inhibitor of CYP2C19 and other cytochromes cimetidine: amitriptyline level increases by about 70%, while nortriptyline decreases by 50%. CYP3A4 inhibitor ketoconazole elevates amitriptyline level by about a quarter. On the other hand, cytochrome P450 inducers such as carbamazepine and St. John’s Wort decrease the levels of both amitriptyline and nortriptyline.

Oral contraceptives may increase the blood level of amitriptyline by as high as 90%. Valproate moderately increases the levels of amitriptyline and nortriptyline through an unclear mechanism.

The prescribing information warns that the combination of amitriptyline with monoamine oxidase inhibitors may cause potentially lethal serotonin syndrome; however, this has been disputed. The prescribing information cautions that some patients may experience a large increase in amitriptyline concentration in the presence of topiramate. However, other literature states that there is little or no interaction: in a pharmacokinetic study topiramate only increased the level of amitriptyline by 20% and nortriptyline by 33%.

Amitriptiline counteracts the antihypertensive action of guanethidine. When given with amitriptyline, other anticholinergic agents may result in hyperpyrexia or paralytic ileus. Co-administration of amitriptyline and disulfiram is not recommended due to the potential for the development of toxic delirium. Amitriptyline causes an unusual type of interaction with the anticoagulant phenprocoumon during which great fluctuations of the prothrombin time have been observed.

Pharmacology

Pharmacodynamics

Amitriptyline inhibits serotonin transporter (SERT) and norepinephrine transporter (NET). It is metabolised to nortriptyline, a stronger norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, further augmenting amitriptyline’s effects on norepinephrine reuptake.

Amitriptyline additionally acts as a potent inhibitor of the serotonin 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C, the α1A-adrenergic, the histamine H1 and the M1-M5 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors.

Amitriptyline is a non-selective blocker of multiple ion channels, in particular, voltage-gated sodium channels Nav1.3, Nav1.5, Nav1.6, Nav1.7, and Nav1.8, voltage-gated potassium channels Kv7.2/ Kv7.3, Kv7.1, Kv7.1/KCNE1, and hERG.

Mechanism of Action

Inhibition of serotonin and norepinephrine transporters by amitriptyline results in interference with neuronal reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. Since the reuptake process is important physiologically in terminating transmitting activity, this action may potentiate or prolong activity of serotonergic and adrenergic neurons and is believed to underlie the antidepressant activity of amitriptyline.

Inhibition of norepinephrine reuptake leading to increased concentration of norepinephrine in the posterior grey column of the spinal cord appears to be mostly responsible for the analgesic action of amitriptyline. Increased level of norepinephrine increases the basal activity of alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, which mediate an analgesic effect by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid transmission among spinal interneurons. The blocking effect of amitriptyline on sodium channels may also contribute to its efficacy in pain conditions.

Pharmacokinetics

Amitriptyline is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract (90-95%). Absorption is gradual with the peak concentration in blood plasma reached after about 4 hours. Extensive metabolism on the first pass through the liver leads to average bioavailability of about 50% (45%-53%). Amitriptyline is metabolized mostly by CYP2C19 into nortriptyline and by CYP2D6 leading to a variety of hydroxylated metabolites, with the principal one among them being (E)-10-hydroxynortriptyline, and to a lesser degree, by CYP3A4.

Nortriptyline, the main active metabolite of amitriptyline, is an antidepressant on its own right. Nortriptyline reaches 10% higher level in the blood plasma than the parent drug amitriptyline and 40% greater area under the curve, and its action is an important part of the overall action of amitriptyline.

Another active metabolite is (E)-10-hydroxynortriptyline, which is a norepinephrine uptake inhibitor four times weaker than nortriptyline. (E)-10-hydroxynortiptyline blood level is comparable to that of nortriptyline, but its cerebrospinal fluid level, which is a close proxy of the brain concentration of a drug, is twice higher than nortriptyline’s. Based on this, (E)-10-hydroxynortriptyline was suggested to significantly contribute to antidepressant effects of amitriptyline.

Blood levels of amitriptyline and nortriptyline and pharmacokinetics of amitriptyline in general, with clearance difference of up to 10-fold, vary widely between individuals. Variability of the area under the curve in steady state is also high, which makes a slow upward titration of the dose necessary.

In the blood, amitriptyline is 96% bound to plasma proteins; nortriptyline is 93-95% bound, and (E)-10-hydroxynortiptyline is about 60% bound. Amitriptyline has an elimination half life of 21 hours, nortriptyline – 23-31 hours, and (E)-10-hydroxynortiptyline – 8-10 hours. Within 48 hours, 12-80% of amitriptyline is eliminated in the urine, mostly as metabolites. 2% of the unchanged drug is excreted in the urine. Elimination in the faeces, apparently, have not been studied.

Therapeutic levels of amitriptyline range from 75 to 175 ng/mL (270-631 nM), or 80-250 ng/mL of both amitriptyline and its metabolite nortriptyline.

Pharmacogenetics

Since amitriptyline is primarily metabolised by CYP2D6 and CYP2C19, genetic variations within the genes coding for these enzymes can affect its metabolism, leading to changes in the concentrations of the drug in the body. Increased concentrations of amitriptyline may increase the risk for side effects, including anticholinergic and nervous system adverse effects, while decreased concentrations may reduce the drug’s efficacy.

Individuals can be categorised into different types of CYP2D6 or CYP2C19 metabolisers depending on which genetic variations they carry. These metaboliser types include poor, intermediate, extensive, and ultrarapid metabolisers. Most individuals (about 77-92%) are extensive metabolisers, and have “normal” metabolism of amitriptyline. Poor and intermediate metabolisers have reduced metabolism of the drug as compared to extensive metabolisers; patients with these metaboliser types may have an increased probability of experiencing side effects. Ultrarapid metabolisers use amitriptyline much faster than extensive metabolisers; patients with this metaboliser type may have a greater chance of experiencing pharmacological failure.

The Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium recommends avoiding amitriptyline in patients who are CYP2D6 ultrarapid or poor metabolizers, due to the risk for a lack of efficacy and side effects, respectively. The consortium also recommends considering an alternative drug not metabolised by CYP2C19 in patients who are CYP2C19 ultrarapid metabolisers. A reduction in starting dose is recommended for patients who are CYP2D6 intermediate metabolisers and CYP2C19 poor metabolisers. If use of amitriptyline is warranted, therapeutic drug monitoring is recommended to guide dose adjustments. The Dutch Pharmacogenetics Working Group also recommends selecting an alternative drug or monitoring plasma concentrations of amitriptyline in patients who are CYP2D6 poor or ultrarapid metabolisers, and selecting an alternative drug or reducing initial dose in patients who are CYP2D6 intermediate metabolisers.

Chemistry

Amitriptyline is a highly lipophilic molecule having an octanol-water partition coefficient (pH 7.4) of 3.0, while the log P of the free base was reported as 4.92. Solubility of the free base amitriptyline in water is 14 mg/L. Amitriptyline is prepared by reacting dibenzosuberone with 3-(dimethylamino)propylmagnesium chloride and then heating the resulting intermediate product with hydrochloric acid to eliminate water.

Society and Culture

English folk singer Nick Drake died from an overdose of Tryptizol in 1974.

Senteni Masango, wife of Swaziland King Mswati, died on 6 April 2018 after committing suicide by overdosing on amytriptyline capsules.

In the 2021 film The Many Saints of Newark, amitriptyline (referred to by the brand name Elavil) is part of the plot line of the movie.

Generic Names

Amitriptyline is the English and French generic name of the drug and its INN, BAN, and DCF, while amitriptyline hydrochloride is its USAN, USP, BANM, and JAN. Its generic name in Spanish and Italian and its DCIT are amitriptilina, in German is Amitriptylin, and in Latin is amitriptylinum. The embonate salt is known as amitriptyline embonate, which is its BANM, or as amitriptyline pamoate unofficially.

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amitriptyline >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.

What is Sertraline?

Introduction

Sertraline, sold under the brand name Zoloft among others, is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class.

The efficacy of sertraline for depression is similar to that of other antidepressants, and the differences are mostly confined to side effects. Sertraline is better tolerated than the older tricyclic antidepressants, and it may work better than fluoxetine for some subtypes of depression. Sertraline is effective for panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, for OCD, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), particularly in combination with sertraline, is a better treatment. Although approved for post-traumatic stress disorder, sertraline leads to only modest improvement in this condition. Sertraline also alleviates the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder and can be used in sub-therapeutic doses or intermittently for its treatment.

Sertraline shares the common side effects and contraindications of other SSRIs, with high rates of nausea, diarrhoea, insomnia, and sexual side effects, but it appears not to lead to much weight gain, and its effects on cognitive performance are mild. Similar to other antidepressants, the use of sertraline for depression may be associated with a higher rate of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in people under the age of 25. It should not be used together with MAO inhibitor medication: this combination causes serotonin syndrome. Sertraline taken during pregnancy is associated with a significant increase in congenital heart defects in newborns.

Sertraline was invented and developed by scientists at Pfizer and approved for medical use in the United States in 1991. It is on the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines. It is available as a generic medication. In 2016, sertraline was the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medication in the US and in 2019, it was the twelfth most commonly prescribed medication in the US, with over 37 million prescriptions.

Brief History

The history of sertraline dates back to the early 1970s, when Pfizer chemist Reinhard Sarges invented a novel series of psychoactive compounds, including lometraline, based on the structures of the neuroleptics thiothixene and pinoxepin. Further work on these compounds led to tametraline, a norepinephrine and weaker dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Development of tametraline was soon stopped because of undesired stimulant effects observed in animals. A few years later, in 1977, pharmacologist Kenneth Koe, after comparing the structural features of a variety of reuptake inhibitors, became interested in the tametraline series. He asked another Pfizer chemist, Willard Welch, to synthesize some previously unexplored tametraline derivatives. Welch generated a number of potent norepinephrine and triple reuptake inhibitors, but to the surprise of the scientists, one representative of the generally inactive cis-analogues was a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Welch then prepared stereoisomers of this compound, which were tested in vivo by animal behavioural scientist Albert Weissman. The most potent and selective (+)-isomer was taken into further development and eventually named sertraline. Weissman and Koe recalled that the group did not set up to produce an antidepressant of the SSRI type – in that sense their inquiry was not “very goal driven”, and the discovery of the sertraline molecule was serendipitous. According to Welch, they worked outside the mainstream at Pfizer, and even “did not have a formal project team”. The group had to overcome initial bureaucratic reluctance to pursue sertraline development, as Pfizer was considering licensing an antidepressant candidate from another company.

Sertraline was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 based on the recommendation of the Psychopharmacological Drugs Advisory Committee; it had already become available in the United Kingdom the previous year. The FDA committee achieved a consensus that sertraline was safe and effective for the treatment of major depression. During the discussion, Paul Leber, the director of the FDA Division of Neuropharmacological Drug Products, noted that granting approval was a “tough decision”, since the treatment effect on outpatients with depression had been “modest to minimal”. Other experts emphasized that the drug’s effect on inpatients had not differed from placebo and criticised poor design of the clinical trials by Pfizer. For example, 40% of participants dropped out of the trials, significantly decreasing their validity.

Until 2002, sertraline was only approved for use in adults ages 18 and over; that year, it was approved by the FDA for use in treating children aged 6 or older with severe OCD. In 2003, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued a guidance that, apart from fluoxetine (Prozac), SSRIs are not suitable for the treatment of depression in patients under 18. However, sertraline can still be used in the UK for the treatment of OCD in children and adolescents. In 2005, the FDA added a boxed warning concerning paediatric suicidal behaviour to all antidepressants, including sertraline. In 2007, labelling was again changed to add a warning regarding suicidal behaviour in young adults ages 18 to 24.

Medical Uses

Sertraline has been approved for major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder (SAD). Sertraline is not approved for use in children except for those with OCD.

Depression

Multiple controlled clinical trials established efficacy of sertraline for the treatment of depression. Sertraline is also an effective antidepressant in the routine clinical practice. Continued treatment with sertraline prevents both a relapse of the current depressive episode and future episodes (recurrence of depression).

In several double-blind studies, sertraline was consistently more effective than placebo for dysthymia, a more chronic variety of depression, and comparable to imipramine in that respect. Sertraline also improves the depression of dysthymic patients to a greater degree than psychotherapy.

Limited paediatric data also demonstrates reduction in depressive symptoms in the paediatric population though remains a second line therapy after fluoxetine.

Comparison with Other Antidepressants

In general, sertraline efficacy is similar to that of other antidepressants. For example, a meta-analysis of 12 new-generation antidepressants showed that sertraline and escitalopram are the best in terms of efficacy and acceptability in the acute-phase treatment of adults with depression. Comparative clinical trials demonstrated that sertraline is similar in efficacy against depression to moclobemide, nefazodone, escitalopram, bupropion, citalopram, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, venlafaxine, and mirtazapine. Sertraline may be more efficacious for the treatment of depression in the acute phase (first 4 weeks) than fluoxetine.

There are differences between sertraline and some other antidepressants in their efficacy in the treatment of different subtypes of depression and in their adverse effects. For severe depression, sertraline is as good as clomipramine but is better tolerated. Sertraline appears to work better in melancholic depression than fluoxetine, paroxetine, and mianserin and is similar to the tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and clomipramine. In the treatment of depression accompanied by OCD, sertraline performs significantly better than desipramine on the measures of both OCD and depression. Sertraline is equivalent to imipramine for the treatment of depression with co-morbid panic disorder, but it is better tolerated. Compared with amitriptyline, sertraline offered a greater overall improvement in quality of life of depressed patients.

Depression in Elderly

Sertraline used for the treatment of depression in elderly (older than 60) patients is superior to placebo and comparable to another SSRI fluoxetine, and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) amitriptyline, nortriptyline and imipramine. Sertraline has much lower rates of adverse effects than these TCAs, with the exception of nausea, which occurs more frequently with sertraline. In addition, sertraline appears to be more effective than fluoxetine or nortriptyline in the older-than-70 subgroup. Accordingly, a meta-analysis of antidepressants in older adults found that sertraline, paroxetine and duloxetine were better than placebo. On the other hand, in a 2003 trial the effect size was modest, and there was no improvement in quality of life as compared to placebo. With depression in dementia, there is no benefit of sertraline treatment compared to either placebo or mirtazapine.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Sertraline is effective for the treatment of OCD in adults and children. It was better tolerated and, based on intention-to-treat analysis, performed better than the gold standard of OCD treatment clomipramine. Continuing sertraline treatment helps prevent relapses of OCD with long-term data supporting its use for up to 24 months. It is generally accepted that the sertraline dosages necessary for the effective treatment of OCD are higher than the usual dosage for depression. The onset of action is also slower for OCD than for depression. The treatment recommendation is to start treatment with a half of maximal recommended dose for at least two months. After that, the dose can be raised to the maximal recommended in the cases of unsatisfactory response.

CBT alone was superior to sertraline in both adults and children; however, the best results were achieved using a combination of these treatments.

Panic Disorder

Sertraline is superior to placebo for the treatment of panic disorder. The response rate was independent of the dose. In addition to decreasing the frequency of panic attacks by about 80% (vs. 45% for placebo) and decreasing general anxiety, sertraline resulted in improvement of quality of life on most parameters. The patients rated as “improved” on sertraline reported better quality of life than the ones who “improved” on placebo. The authors of the study argued that the improvement achieved with sertraline is different and of a better quality than the improvement achieved with placebo. Sertraline is equally effective for men and women, and for patients with or without agoraphobia. Previous unsuccessful treatment with benzodiazepines does not diminish its efficacy. However, the response rate was lower for the patients with more severe panic. Starting treatment simultaneously with sertraline and clonazepam, with subsequent gradual discontinuation of clonazepam, may accelerate the response.

Double-blind comparative studies found sertraline to have the same effect on panic disorder as paroxetine or imipramine. While imprecise, comparison of the results of trials of sertraline with separate trials of other anti-panic agents (clomipramine, imipramine, clonazepam, alprazolam, and fluvoxamine) indicates approximate equivalence of these medications.

Other Anxiety Disorders

Sertraline has been successfully used for the treatment of social anxiety disorder. All three major domains of the disorder (fear, avoidance, and physiological symptoms) respond to sertraline. Maintenance treatment, after the response is achieved, prevents the return of the symptoms. The improvement is greater among the patients with later, adult onset of the disorder. In a comparison trial, sertraline was superior to exposure therapy, but patients treated with the psychological intervention continued to improve during a year-long follow-up, while those treated with sertraline deteriorated after treatment termination. The combination of sertraline and CBT appears to be more effective in children and young people than either treatment alone.

Sertraline has not been approved for the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder; however, several guidelines recommend it as a first-line medication referring to good quality controlled clinical trials.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Sertraline is effective in alleviating the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. Significant improvement was observed in 50-60% of cases treated with sertraline vs. 20-30% of cases on placebo. The improvement began during the first week of treatment, and in addition to mood, irritability, and anxiety, improvement was reflected in better family functioning, social activity and general quality of life. Work functioning and physical symptoms, such as swelling, bloating and breast tenderness, were less responsive to sertraline. Taking sertraline only during the luteal phase, that is, the 12-14 days before menses, was shown to work as well as continuous treatment. Continuous treatment with sub-therapeutic doses of sertraline (25 mg vs. usual 50-100 mg) is also effective.

Other Indications

Sertraline is approved for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommends it for patients who prefer drug treatment to a psychological one. Other guidelines also suggest sertraline as a first-line option for pharmacological therapy. When necessary, long-term pharmacotherapy can be beneficial. There are both negative and positive clinical trial results for sertraline, which may be explained by the types of psychological traumas, symptoms, and comorbidities included in the various studies. Positive results were obtained in trials that included predominantly women (75%) with a majority (60%) having physical or sexual assault as the traumatic event. Contrary to the above suggestions, a meta-analysis of sertraline clinical trials for PTSD found it to be not significantly better than placebo. Another meta-analysis relegated sertraline to the second line, proposing trauma focused psychotherapy as a first-line intervention. The authors noted that Pfizer had declined to submit the results of a negative trial for the inclusion into the meta-analysis making the results unreliable.

Sertraline when taken daily can be useful for the treatment of premature ejaculation. A disadvantage of sertraline is that it requires continuous daily treatment to delay ejaculation significantly.

A 2019 systematic review suggested that sertraline may be a good way to control anger, irritability and hostility in depressed patients and patients with other comorbidities.

Contraindications

Sertraline is contraindicated in individuals taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors or the antipsychotic pimozide. Sertraline concentrate contains alcohol and is therefore contraindicated with disulfiram. The prescribing information recommends that treatment of the elderly and patients with liver impairment “must be approached with caution”. Due to the slower elimination of sertraline in these groups, their exposure to sertraline may be as high as three times the average exposure for the same dose.

Side Effects

Nausea, ejaculation failure, insomnia, diarrhoea, dry mouth, somnolence, dizziness, tremor, headache, excessive sweating, fatigue, and decreased libido are the common adverse effects associated with sertraline with the greatest difference from placebo. Those that most often resulted in interruption of the treatment are nausea, diarrhoea and insomnia. The incidence of diarrhoea is higher with sertraline – especially when prescribed at higher doses – in comparison with other SSRIs.

Over more than six months of sertraline therapy for depression, people showed a nonsignificant weight increase of 0.1%. Similarly, a 30-month-long treatment with sertraline for OCD resulted in a mean weight gain of 1.5% (1 kg). Although the difference did not reach statistical significance, the average weight gain was lower for fluoxetine (1%) but higher for citalopram, fluvoxamine and paroxetine (2.5%). Of the sertraline group, 4.5% gained a large amount of weight (defined as more than 7% gain). This result compares favourably with placebo, where, according to the literature, 3-6% of patients gained more than 7% of their initial weight. The large weight gain was observed only among female members of the sertraline group; the significance of this finding is unclear because of the small size of the group.

Over a two-week treatment of healthy volunteers, sertraline slightly improved verbal fluency but did not affect word learning, short-term memory, vigilance, flicker fusion time, choice reaction time, memory span, or psychomotor coordination. In spite of lower subjective rating, that is, feeling that they performed worse, no clinically relevant differences were observed in the objective cognitive performance in a group of people treated for depression with sertraline for 1.5 years as compared to healthy controls. In children and adolescents taking sertraline for six weeks for anxiety disorders, 18 out of 20 measures of memory, attention and alertness stayed unchanged. Divided attention was improved and verbal memory under interference conditions decreased marginally. Because of the large number of measures taken, it is possible that these changes were still due to chance. The unique effect of sertraline on dopaminergic neurotransmission may be related to these effects on cognition and vigilance.

Sertraline has a low level of exposure of an infant through the breast milk and is recommended as the preferred option for the antidepressant therapy of breast-feeding mothers. There is 29-42% increase in congenital heart defects among children whose mothers were prescribed sertraline during pregnancy, with sertraline use in the first trimester associated with 2.7-fold increase in septal heart defects.

Abrupt interruption of sertraline treatment may result in withdrawal or discontinuation syndrome. Dizziness, insomnia, anxiety, agitation, and irritability are its common symptoms. It typically occurs within a few days from drug discontinuation and lasts a few weeks. The withdrawal symptoms for sertraline are less severe and frequent than for paroxetine, and more frequent than for fluoxetine. In most cases symptoms are mild, short-lived, and resolve without treatment. More severe cases are often successfully treated by temporary reintroduction of the drug with a slower tapering off rate.

Sertraline and SSRI antidepressants in general may be associated with bruxism and other movement disorders. Sertraline appears to be associated with microscopic colitis, a rare condition of unknown aetiology.

Sexual

Like other SSRIs, sertraline is associated with sexual side effects, including sexual arousal disorder, erectile dysfunction and difficulty achieving orgasm. While nefazodone and bupropion do not have negative effects on sexual functioning, 67% of men on sertraline experienced ejaculation difficulties versus 18% before the treatment. Sexual arousal disorder, defined as “inadequate lubrication and swelling for women and erectile difficulties for men”, occurred in 12% of people on sertraline as compared with 1% of patients on placebo. The mood improvement resulting from the treatment with sertraline sometimes counteracted these side effects, so that sexual desire and overall satisfaction with sex stayed the same as before the sertraline treatment. However, under the action of placebo the desire and satisfaction slightly improved. Some people continue experiencing sexual side effects after they stop taking SSRIs.

Suicide

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all antidepressants, including sertraline, to carry a boxed warning stating that antidepressants increase the risk of suicide in persons younger than 25 years. This warning is based on statistical analyses conducted by two independent groups of FDA experts that found a 100% increase of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in children and adolescents, and a 50% increase – in the 18-24 age group.

Suicidal ideation and behaviour in clinical trials are rare. For the above analysis, the FDA combined the results of 295 trials of 11 antidepressants for psychiatric indications in order to obtain statistically significant results. Considered separately, sertraline use in adults decreased the odds of suicidal behaviour with a marginal statistical significance by 37% or 50% depending on the statistical technique used. The authors of the FDA analysis note that “given the large number of comparisons made in this review, chance is a very plausible explanation for this difference”. The more complete data submitted later by the sertraline manufacturer Pfizer indicated increased suicidal behaviour. Similarly, the analysis conducted by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found a 50% increase of odds of suicide-related events, not reaching statistical significance, in the patients on sertraline as compared to the ones on placebo.

Overdose

Acute overdosage is often manifested by emesis, lethargy, ataxia, tachycardia and seizures. Plasma, serum or blood concentrations of sertraline and norsertraline, its major active metabolite, may be measured to confirm a diagnosis of poisoning in hospitalised patients or to aid in the medicolegal investigation of fatalities. As with most other SSRIs its toxicity in overdose is considered relatively low.

Interactions

As with other SSRIs, sertraline may increase the risk of bleeding with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, mefenamic acid), antiplatelet drugs, anticoagulants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and garlic supplements due to sertraline’s inhibitory effects on platelet aggregation via blocking serotonin transporters on platelets. Sertraline, in particular, may potentially diminish the efficacy of levothyroxine.

Sertraline is a moderate inhibitor of CYP2D6 and CYP2B6 in vitro. Accordingly, in human trials it caused increased blood levels of CYP2D6 substrates such as metoprolol, dextromethorphan, desipramine, imipramine and nortriptyline, as well as the CYP3A4/CYP2D6 substrate haloperidol. This effect is dose-dependent; for example, co-administration with 50 mg of sertraline resulted in 20% greater exposure to desipramine, while 150 mg of sertraline led to a 70% increase. In a placebo-controlled study, the concomitant administration of sertraline and methadone caused a 40% increase in blood levels of the latter, which is primarily metabolized by CYP2B6.

Sertraline had a slight inhibitory effect on the metabolism of diazepam, tolbutamide and warfarin, which are CYP2C9 or CYP2C19 substrates; the clinical relevance of this effect was unclear. As expected from in vitro data, sertraline did not alter the human metabolism of the CYP3A4 substrates erythromycin, alprazolam, carbamazepine, clonazepam, and terfenadine; neither did it affect metabolism of the CYP1A2 substrate clozapine.

Sertraline had no effect on the actions of digoxin and atenolol, which are not metabolised in the liver. Case reports suggest that taking sertraline with phenytoin or zolpidem may induce sertraline metabolism and decrease its efficacy, and that taking sertraline with lamotrigine may increase the blood level of lamotrigine, possibly by inhibition of glucuronidation.

CYP2C19 inhibitor esomeprazole increased sertraline concentrations in blood plasma by approximately 40%.

Clinical reports indicate that interaction between sertraline and the MAOIs isocarboxazid and tranylcypromine may cause serotonin syndrome. In a placebo-controlled study in which sertraline was co-administered with lithium, 35% of the subjects experienced tremors, while none of those taking placebo did.

Sertraline may interact with grapefruit juice.

Pharmacology

Pharmacodynamics

Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). By binding serotonin transporter (SERT) it inhibits neuronal reuptake of serotonin and potentiates serotonergic activity in the central nervous system. Over time, this leads to a downregulation of pre-synaptic 5-HT1A receptors, which is associated with an improvement in passive stress tolerance, and delayed downstream increase in expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may contribute to a reduction in negative affective biases. It does not significantly affect norepinephrine transporter (NET), serotonin, dopamine, adrenergic, histamine, acetylcholine, GABA or benzodiazepine receptors.

Sertraline also shows relatively high activity as an inhibitor of the dopamine transporter (DAT) and antagonist of the sigma σ1 receptor (but not the σ2 receptor). However, sertraline affinity for its main target (SERT) is much greater than its affinity for σ1 receptor and DAT. Although there could be a role for the σ1 receptor in the pharmacology of sertraline, the significance of this receptor in its actions is unclear. Similarly, the clinical relevance of sertraline’s blockade of the dopamine transporter is uncertain.

Pharmacokinetics

Absorption

Following a single oral dose of sertraline, mean peak blood levels of sertraline occur between 4.5 and 8.4 hours. Bioavailability is likely linear and dose-proportional over a dose range of 150 to 200 mg. Concomitant intake of sertraline with food slightly increases sertraline peak levels and total exposure. There is an approximate 2-fold accumulation of sertraline with continuous administration and steady-state levels are reached within one week.

Distribution

Sertraline is highly plasma protein bound (98.5%) across a concentration range of 20 to 500 ng/mL. Despite the high plasma protein binding, sertraline and its metabolite desmethylsertraline at respective tested concentrations of 300 ng/mL and 200 ng/mL were found not to interfere with the plasma protein binding of warfarin and propranolol, two other highly plasma protein-bound drugs.

Metabolism

Sertraline is subject to extensive first-pass metabolism, as indicated by a small study of radiolabelled sertraline in which less than 5% of plasma radioactivity was unchanged sertraline in two males. The principal metabolic pathway for sertraline is N-demethylation into desmethylsertraline (N-desmethylsertraline) mainly by CYP2B6. Reduction, hydroxylation, and glucuronide conjugation of both sertraline and desmethylsertraline also occur. Desmethylsertraline, while pharmacologically active, is substantially (50-fold) weaker than sertraline as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor and its influence on the clinical effects of sertraline is thought to be negligible. Based on in vitro studies, sertraline is metabolized by multiple cytochrome 450 isoforms; however, it appears that in the human body CYP2C19 plays the most important role, followed by CYP2B6. In addition to the cytochrome P450 system, sertraline can be oxidatively deaminated in vitro by monoamine oxidases; however, this metabolic pathway has never been studied in vivo.

Elimination

The elimination half-life of sertraline is on average 26 hours, with a range of 13 to 45 hours. The half-life of sertraline is longer in women (32 hours) than in men (22 hours), which leads to 1.5-fold higher exposure to sertraline in women compared to men. The elimination half-life of desmethylsertraline is 62 to 104 hours.

In a small study of two males, sertraline was excreted to similar degrees in urine and faeces (40 to 45% each within 9 days). Unchanged sertraline was not detectable in urine, whereas 12 to 14% unchanged sertraline was present in faeces.

Pharmacogenomics

CYP2C19 and CYP2B6 are thought to be the key cytochrome P450 enzymes involved in the metabolism of sertraline. Relative to CYP2C19 normal (extensive) metabolisers, poor metabolisers have 2.7-fold higher levels of sertraline and intermediate metabolisers have 1.4-fold higher levels. In contrast, CYP2B6 poor metabolisers have 1.6-fold higher levels of sertraline and intermediate metabolisers have 1.2-fold higher levels.

Society and Culture

Generic Availability

The US patent for Zoloft expired in 2006, and sertraline is available in generic form and is marketed under many brand names worldwide.

In May 2020, the FDA placed Zoloft on the list of drugs currently facing a shortage.

Other Uses

Lass-Flörl et al., 2003 finds sertraline significantly inhibits phospholipase B in the fungal genus Candida, reducing virulence. It is also a very effective leishmanicide. Specifically, Palit & Ali 2008 find that sertraline kills almost all promastigotes of Leishmania donovani.

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What are Drug Therapy Problems?

Introduction

Drug therapy problems (DTPs) (or drug related problems, DRPs) represent the categorisation and definition of clinical problems related to the use of medications or “drugs” in the field of pharmaceutical care. In the course of clinical practice, DTPs are often identified, prevented, and/or resolved by pharmacists in the course of medication therapy management, as experts on the safety and efficacy of medications, but other healthcare professionals may also manage DTPs.

A drug-therapy (related) problem can be defined as an event or circumstance involving drug treatment (pharmacotherapy) that interferes with the optimal provision of medical care. In 1990, Strand and colleagues (based on previous work of Mikeal et al. (1975) and Brodie et al. (1980)) classified the DTPs into eight different categories. According to these categories, pharmacists generated a list of the DTPs for each patient. As a result, pharmacists had a cleaner picture of the patient’s drug therapy and medical conditions. A second publication of Cipolle et al. (1998; 2004; 2012) changed the eight categories into seven, grouped in four Pharmacotherapy needs: indication, effectiveness, safety and adherence.

Examples

Patients who have chronic pain that are prescribed opioid painkillers (such as morphine) may build up a tolerance to the effect of the painkillers, requiring higher doses to achieve the same pain reducing effect. This risky practice of dose escalation can lead to drug overdoses.
Some drugs reduce the body’s absorption of essential nutrients from food, which could lead to nutritional deficiencies.

The Original Eight Problems

According to page 73 in Introduction to Health Care Delivery: A Primer for Pharmacists, drug therapy problems (DTP) originated from Strand et al. (1990) who defined eight problems that could result in poorer health outcomes in an attempt to categorise DTP. Helper and Strand later in 1990 stated the mission statement or raison d’être of pharmacists should be to correct these drug therapy problems.

The original eight problems have now been condensed into seven categories of problems. As given by Shargel, they are:

  1. Unnecessary drug therapy: This could occur when the patient has been placed on too many medications for their condition and the drug is simply not needed.
  2. Wrong drug: This could occur when a patient is given medication that does not treat the patient’s condition, e.g. heart medication to treat an infection.
  3. Dose too low: This could occur when a patient is given medication that is not strong enough to get beneficial or therapeutic effects.
  4. Dose too high: This could occur when a patient is given medication that is too strong and is causing detrimental effects or is simply not necessary.
  5. Adverse drug reaction: This could occur when a patient has an allergic response to a medication.
  6. Inappropriate adherence: This could occur when a patient chooses not to or forgets to take a medication.
  7. Needs additional drug therapy: This could occur when a patient needs more medication to treat their condition.

Further Breakdown of Categories

DRPs can be broken down further into the following categories (or four pharmacotherapy needs):

Indication

  • Requires Additional Drug Therapy:
    • Untreated condition.
    • Preventative / prophylactic.
    • Synergistic / potentiating.
  • Unnecessary Drug Therapy:
    • No medical indication.
    • Duplicate therapy.
    • Non-drug therapy indicated.
    • Treating avoidable ADR.

Effectiveness

Requires Different Drug Product

  • More effective drug available:
    • Condition refractory to drug.
    • Dosage form inappropriate.
    • Not effective for condition.
  • Dosage Too Low:
    • Wrong dose.
    • Frequency inappropriate.
    • Duration inappropriate.
    • Drug interaction.

Safety

Adverse Drug Reaction

  • Undesirable effect:
    • Unsafe drug for patient.
    • Dose changed too quickly.
    • Allergic reaction.
    • Contraindications present.
  • Dosage Too High:
    • Wrong dose.
    • Frequency inappropriate.
    • Incorrect administration.
    • Drug interaction.

Adherence

  • Non-adherence:
    • Directions not understood.
    • Patient prefers not to take.
    • Patient forgets to take.
    • Drug product too expensive.
    • Cannot swallow/administer.
    • Drug product not available.

Reference

Brodie, D.C., Parish, P.A. & Poston, J.W. (1980) Societal Needs for Drugs and Drug-Related Services. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 44(3): pp.276-278.

Cipolle, R.J, Strand, L.M. & Morley, P.C. (1998) Pharmaceutical Care Practice. Illustrated Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.

Cipolle, R.J., Strand, L.M. & Morley, P.C. (2012) Pharmaceutical Care Practice: The Patient-Centred Approach to Medication Management Services. Third Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.

Cipolle, R.J., Strand, L.M. & Morley, P.C. (2004) Pharmaceutical Care Practice: The Patient-Centred Approach to Medication Management Services. Second Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.

Mikeal, R.L., Brown, T.R., Lazarus, H.L. & Vinson, M.C. (1975) Quality of Pharmaceutical Care in Hospitals. American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. 32(6), pp.567-574.

Strand, L.M., Morley, P.C., Cipolle, R.J., Ramsey, R. & Lamsam, G.D. (1990) Drug-Related Problems: Their Structure and Function. DICP. 24(11), pp.1093-1097. doi:10.1177/106002809002401114.

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What is Pharmaceutical Care?

Introduction

Pharmaceutical care is the direct, responsible provision of medication-related care for the purpose of achieving definite outcomes that improve a patient’s quality of life.

Definition

Hepler and Linda Strand’s definition is the most well-known definition for pharmaceutical care, coming from their article ‘Opportunities and responsibilities in pharmaceutical care’ from 1990. This was a landmark paper because it marked the start of the international movement to make pharmaceutical care more visible, and get the term and the type of care implemented in hospital and community pharmacy practice. During the following years both authors worked to make the concept applicable in practice.

Another definition reads: Pharmaceutical care is the direct or indirect responsible provision of drug therapy for the purpose of achieving the elimination or reduction of a patient’s symptoms; arresting or slowing of a disease process; or preventing a disease.

In 2013, a European organisation, the Pharmaceutical Care Network Europe (PCNE), created a new definition that could satisfy experts from a multitude of countries. After a review of existing definitions, a number of options were presented to the participants and in a one-day meeting consensus on a definition was reached:

Pharmaceutical Care is the pharmacologist/pharmacist’s contribution to the care of individuals in order to optimise medicines use and improve health outcomes.

Goal

The ultimate goal of pharmaceutical care (optimise medicines use and improving health outcomes) exists in all practice settings and in all cultures where medicines are used. It involves two major functions:

  • Identifying potential and manifest problems in the pharmacotherapy (DRPs); and then
  • Resolving the problems and preventing the potential problems from becoming real for the patient and their therapy outcomes.

This should preferably be done together with other health care professionals and the patient through a review of the medication (and diseases) and subsequent counselling and discussions.

Refer To

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What is the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (Canada)?

Introduction

The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (French: Conseil d’examen du prix des médicaments brevetés) is a federal quasi-judicial regulatory and reporting agency in Canada with a mandate to protect consumers by ensuring that the prices of patented medication charged by manufacturers of patented drugs are not excessive. The board does this through its role as a regulator, and through its reporting on trends, research and development in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry.

The board investigates, reviews and negotiates the price of individual drugs that are still under patent and which have no generic substitutes. It establishes the maximum prices that can be charged in Canada for patented drugs.

Accountability

The board is accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Health, the elected official responsible for the health portfolio. Under sections 89 and 100 of the Patent Act, the board produces an annual report submitted to the minister, who tables it in the House of Commons.

Background

Bill C-22, which was passed in 1987, established a compulsory licensing system under which drug patent holders were required to allow competing drug manufacturers to import their patented drug in exchange for a very modest 4% royalty, which resulted in an increase in the market share of generic drugs.  At the same time, it established the federal Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. The board determines a maximum price for individual drugs through a review process, and negotiates “voluntary compliance agreements” with drug companies to ensure that “manufacturer prices are within justification, and [are] not excessive”.

Annual Reports

According to their annual report for the fiscal year 2017, there were 1,391 patented medicines for human use that were reported, which included 80 new medicines. By 31 December 2017, there were 14 voluntary compliance undertakings accepted. Patented medicines represented 61.5% of the total medicine sales in Canada in 2017 up from 60.8% in 2016.

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