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J Anal Toxicol. 1996 Oct;20(6):502-5.

Distribution of venlafaxine in three postmortem cases.

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  • 1Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland, Baltimore 21201, USA.


Venlafaxine (V) is a second-generation antidepressant approved for use in the United States in 1993. It is a derivative of phenethylamine and is structurally unrelated to first- and other second-generation antidepressants. Nevertheless, its mechanism of action is similar to other antidepressants; it inhibits the reuptake of presynaptic norepinephrine and serotonin. Its major routes of elimination involve O and N demethylation. O-Desmethylvenlafaxine (ODV) is biologically active. Therapeutic concentrations of V and ODV are approximately 0.2 and 0.4 mg/L, respectively. Three cases of drug intoxication involving V are presented. V and ODV were identified by gas chromatography-nitrogen-phosphorus detection after alkaline extraction of the biological specimen. On an HP-5 column, V and ODV elute after bupropion and fluoxetine, but prior to the first-generation antidepressants, sertraline, amoxapine, and trazodone. V and ODV were confirmed by full scan electron impact gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The heart-blood V and ODV concentrations (mg/L) in the three cases were 6.6 and 31; 84 and 15; and 44 and 50, respectively. In Case 1, acetaminophen and diphenhydramine were found in the heart blood at 140 and 2.6 mg/L respectively. In Case 2, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and chlordiazepoxide were found in the blood at 2.8, 0.5 and 3.3 mg/L, respectively. In each case, the manner of death was suicide.

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