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J Clin Psychiatry. 1996 Jan;57(1):7-11.

Sertraline versus desipramine in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: an open-label trial.

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Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, USA.



Antidepressant medications have appeared to be effective treatments for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in several small trials. This open-label study examined the efficacy of and tolerance for a new serotonergic antidepressant compared with a traditional tricyclic antidepressant in PMS treatment.


For two menstrual cycles in women meeting well-defined criteria for PMS, an open-label comparison of the serotonin selective sertraline (N = 17) and the noradrenergic desipramine (N = 15) was performed. Dose was flexible, with a mean dose in the second cycle of 87 mg/day for sertraline and 110 mg/day for desipramine. Outcome measures were the premenstrual daily symptom report (DSR) scores and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D).


Sertraline and desipramine reduced depressive symptoms as assessed by the HAM-D, both achieving similar reductions in the HAM-D scores. Reduction of total premenstrual symptoms as assessed by the DSR score was observably greater with sertraline, but the difference compared with desipramine was not statistically significant in this small sample. Subjects were more likely to perceive desipramine side effects as intolerable; 4 of the 15 desipramine-treated subjects discontinued compared with none in the sertraline group. Subjects who were previously treated in a PMS program without good therapeutic response were less likely to respond to either medication, suggesting a treatment-resistant group.


Sertraline and possibly desipramine appear to be effective treatments for PMS. Sertraline was better tolerated, resulting in greater patient acceptance. A placebo-controlled trial in which subjects are randomly assigned to the medication is clearly needed to support or refute these preliminary findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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