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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Feb;153(4):450-4.

Transplacental transfer of amitriptyline and nortriptyline in isolated perfused human placenta.

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Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Turku, Finland.



Although tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) have gained wide acceptance for use in the treatment of depression in pregnant women, their pharmacokinetics during pregnancy have been poorly characterized. The aim of the present study was to investigate the transplacental transfer of amitriptyline (AMI) and its main active metabolite nortriptyline (NOR) in isolated perfused human placenta.


Nine term human placentae were obtained immediately after delivery with maternal consent and a 2-h non-recirculating perfusion of a single placental cotyledon was performed. AMI (200 ng/ml) and NOR (150 ng/ml), with antipyrine as a reference compound, were added to the maternal reservoir and their appearance to the fetal circulation was followed for 2 h. AMI and NOR concentrations were measured by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and antipyrine concentrations spectrophotometrically.


The mean (SD) transplacental transfers (TPT(SS)%) for AMI and NOR were 8.2 (2.3)% and 6.5 (1.8)%, respectively, calculated as the ratio between the steady-state concentrations in fetal venous and maternal arterial sides. The TPTs of AMI and NOR were 81% and 62% of the freely diffusable antipyrine. The absolute fraction of the dose that crossed the placenta (TPT(A)) was moderately, but significantly higher for AMI (7.7%) than for NOR (5.7%) (P=0.037). In all perfusions, steady state at the fetal side was reached by 30 min for AMI and by 50 min for NOR in the fetal side. The viability of the placentae was retained during the 2-h perfusion, as evidenced by unchanged pH of the perfusate and by stable perfusion pressures in fetal artery and stable antipyrine transfer.


Both AMI and NOR cross the human placenta. However, the fetal exposure with NOR may be somewhat smaller compared with AMI, probably due to the higher lipophilicity of AMI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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