Mirtazapine: A Review of its Use in Major Depression

Holm, K.J.; Markham, A.
April 1999
Drugs;Apr1999, Vol. 57 Issue 4, p607
Academic Journal
Mirtazapine is a noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant (NaSSA) which has predominantly been evaluated in the treatment of major depression. The drug had equivalent efficacy to tricyclic antidepressants and it was at least as effective as trazodone in the majority of available short term trials in patients with moderate or severe depression, including those with baseline anxiety symptoms or sleep disturbance and the elderly. A continuation study also showed that sustained remission rates were higher with mirtazapine than with amitriptyline and that the drugs had similar efficacy for the prevention of relapse. There is some evidence for a faster onset of action with mirtazapine than with the selective serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Mirtazapine was more effective than the SSRI fluoxetine at weeks 3 and 4 of therapy and it was also more effective than paroxetine and citalopram at weeks 1 and 2, respectively, in short term assessments (6 or 8 weeks). Preliminary data suggest that the drug may be effective as an augmentation or combination therapy in patients with refractory depression. Anticholinergic events and other events including tremor and dyspepsia are less common with mirtazapine than with tricyclic antidepressants. There was a greater tendency for SSRI-related adverse events with fluoxetine than with mirtazapine, but, overall, mirtazapine had a similar tolerability profile to the SSRIs. Increased appetite and bodyweight gain appear to be the only events that are reported more often with mirtazapine than with comparator antidepressants. In vitro and in vivo data have suggested that mirtazapine is unlikely to affect the metabolism of drugs metabolised by cytochrome P450 (CYP)2D6, although few formal drug interaction data are available. Conclusions: Mirtazapine is effective and well tolerated for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe major depression. Further research is required to define the comparative efficacy of mirtazapine in specific patient groups, including the elderly and those with severe depression. Clarification of its efficacy as an augmentation therapy and in patients with refractory depression and its role in improving the efficacy and reducing the extrapyramidal effects of antipsychotic drugs would also help to establish its clinical value. The low potential for interaction with drugs that are metabolised by CYP2D6, including antipsychotics, tricyclic antidepressants and some SSRIs, may also make mirtazapine an important option for the treatment of major depression in patients who require polytherapy. Mirtazapine also appears to be useful in patients with depression who present with anxiety symptoms and sleep disturbance.


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