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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;19(8):754-62.

A comparison of side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants in older depressed patients: a meta-analysis.

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University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.



To examine the relative tolerability and side effect profile of tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in older depressed people.


A systematic literature search generated 37 randomised controlled trials of TCAs and SSRIs of which 11 were entered into a meta analysis comparing withdrawal rates and side effect profiles.


537 TCA recipients and 554 SSRI recipients were compared. TCAs had an increased withdrawal rate (RR: 0.24, CI 1.04, 1.47). A similar result was found when comparing classical TCAs (451 patients) (amitriptyline, clomipramine, doxepin and dothiepin) with SSRIs (466 patients) (RR 1.30 CI: 1.02,1.64). These findings were reflected in the increased TCA prevalence of side effects including dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness and lethargy. No differences were found when comparing TCA related drugs (mianserin and trazadone) with SSRIs (RR 1.07 CI 0.43, 2.70).


Despite the relative low prevalence of side effects associated with SSRIs a significant minority of older people find these drugs intolerable and experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness and drowsiness. We conclude that TCA related drugs are comparable to SSRIs in terms of tolerability and may offer an alternative when SSRIs are either contra-indicated or clinically unacceptable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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