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Amitriptyline and oxaprotiline in the treatment of hospitalized depressive patients. Clinical aspects, psychophysiology, and drug plasma levels.


Amitriptyline (AT) and the noradrenaline reuptake inhibiting antidepressant oxaprotiline (OT = hydroxymaprotiline) were compared in 59 primary depressive inpatients in a 4-week double blind parallel group design. In the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and 2 self-rating scales AT proved to be more efficient than OT, mainly with respect to disturbances of appetite and sleep. Agitated patients receiving OT needed more additional tranquilizing medication. The number of side-effects did not differ. Both drugs increased heart rate and skin resistance level (SRL) to about the same degree and did not influence the number of spontaneous fluctuations of SRL, habituation of SRL orienting responses (OR), frequencies of respiration and blinking. Salivation was temporarily more impaired by AT. All physiological variables differed between patients and 30 healthy controls during the whole 4-week trial. Clinical outcome showed a linear relation to OT plasma levels. For AT a therapeutic window was confirmed for concentrations of AT and its metabolite nortriptyline between 125 and 200 ng/ml. Patients whose SRL-OR habituated rapidly had a better outcome than slow habituators. Urinary excretion of 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol was lower in patients than in controls but could not predict outcome with either drug.

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