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Clin Drug Investig. 2012 Mar 1;32(3):213-9. doi: 10.2165/11597330-000000000-00000.

Effect of quetiapine and norquetiapine on anxiety and depression in major psychoses using a pharmacokinetic approach: a prospective observational study.

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Department of Clinical Psychiatry, University of Milan, IRCCS Foundation Ca Granda, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy.



Quetiapine apparently differs from other antipsychotic drugs in terms of its antidepressant activity and efficacy in bipolar depression. The mechanism of this activity is unknown although it may be mediated by its metabolite N-desalkylquetiapine (norquetiapine).


The aim of the study was to analyse the relationships between quetiapine and norquetiapine plasma concentrations and clinical improvement in depressive and anxious symptoms.


This was a prospective observational study. Recruited patients were evaluated during a clinical post-acute phase. Patients were recruited from patients hospitalized in the Psychiatric Department of Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan, Italy. After discharge they were followed-up as outpatients. The study involved 41 outpatients (23 males, 18 females; age >18 years) diagnosed as affected by schizophrenia (17 patients), borderline personality disorder (eight patients) or bipolar depression (16 patients) on the basis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth text revision (DSM-IV-TR) criteria. Patients were prescribed 50-800 mg of quetiapine (Seroquel®). Patients were evaluated after discharge from the psychiatric department (baseline, T0), after 15 days (T1) and after 3 months (T2) using the Brief Psychiatry Rating Scale (BPRS) with particular reference to the dimensions of depression (items 5, 9 and 13) and anxiety (items 1, 2 and 6). Plasma quetiapine and norquetiapine concentrations were determined by means of high-performance liquid chromatography at T2.


There was a significant improvement in the mean BPRS total score, as well as in the dimensions of anxiety and depression. The bipolar patients only showed a significant curvilinear relationship described by a second-order polynomial model between the plasma norquetiapine/quetiapine concentration ratio and the improvement in depression at T2. There was a significant negative linear correlation between the norquetiapine/quetiapine ratio and anxiety in all of the patients.


The results of this study confirm the efficacy of quetiapine on both anxious and depressive symptoms. Norquetiapine has a specific effect on anxiety and depressive symptoms, showing a correlation between plasma concentrations and clinical efficacy only in patients with bipolar depression.

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