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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1986 Dec;43(12):1155-61.

Desipramine-yohimbine combination treatment of refractory depression. Implications for the beta-adrenergic receptor hypothesis of antidepressant action.


Preclinical investigations have shown that combined administration of the alpha 2-adrenergic receptor antagonist yohimbine hydrochloride and the tricyclic antidepressant desipramine hydrochloride produces a reduction in brain beta-adrenergic receptor function within four days. Since the ability of antidepressant treatments to reduce beta-adrenergic receptor function has been hypothesized to mediate antidepressant efficacy, it was predicted that combined desipramine-yohimbine treatment would be a more rapid-acting and potent antidepressant regimen than desipramine alone. In the present investigation, the effects of desipramine (N = 11) and desipramine-yohimbine (N = 10) treatment on depressive symptoms, norepinephrine turnover, and blood pressure were determined in patients with major depression who had a history of nonresponse to standard antidepressant treatments. Neither desipramine nor desipramine-yohimbine proved to be an effective treatment, although concomitant yohimbine administration did attenuate the ability of desipramine to decrease plasma free and 24-hour urinary 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl-ethyleneglycol levels and blood pressure. Fifteen of the 21 patients eventually had a good response to pharmacologic treatments, particularly a desipramine-lithium carbonate or lithium carbonate-tranylcypromine sulfate combination treatment (11 of 14 responded). This study provides evidence against the beta-adrenergic receptor hypothesis of antidepressant action.

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