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J Affect Disord. 1999 Oct;55(2-3):203-13.

Reboxetine versus imipramine in the treatment of elderly patients with depressive disorders: a double-blind randomised trial.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Middlesex Hospital, London, UK.



Depression in older people is often unrecognised and untreated or under-treated. Antidepressant treatment may itself exacerbate a pre-existing illness, interact with concomitant medications or produce undesirable cognitive and sedative side effects. Newer antidepressants may offer advantages in terms of a lesser burden of adverse effects.


The comparative tolerability of the unique selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (selective NRI) reboxetine (4-6 mg/day; n = 176) and that of imipramine (50-100 mg/day; n = 171) was assessed in an elderly ( > 65 years) cohort of depressed or dysthymic patients in an 8-week, double-blind, multicentre trial. Comparative efficacy was also assessed.


Overall, 68% of patients in the reboxetine group experienced adverse events compared with 71% in the imipramine group. Reboxetine-treated patients were less likely to develop hypotension and related symptoms (7% vs. imipramine 16%) or cardiovascular disorders (12.5% vs. imipramine 21.1%), while those treated with imipramine were less likely to experience insomnia (6.3% vs. 2.9%). Adverse events were more often assessed as related to treatment (43%) and moderate to severe in intensity (73%) with imipramine than with reboxetine (33% and 65%, respectively). Furthermore, there were fewer serious adverse events in the reboxetine-treated group (P = 0.019). The reduction in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) was comparable between the treatment groups in the total population. At the last assessment, the majority of patients in both treatment groups were assessed as normal to borderline or mildly ill using the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale. In a subanalysis of the dysthymic patients a modest but significant difference in favour of imipramine was observed for both HAM-D and CGI assessments. This may have been a reflection of a trend towards more severe depressive symptoms at baseline in the reboxetine group.


Reboxetine is as effective as imipramine in the treatment of depression in elderly patients but is at least as well tolerated with a lower risk of hypotension and related symptoms, fewer serious adverse events, adverse event-related withdrawals and treatment-related adverse events.

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