Tolerability and Patient Compliance

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Currently available antidepressants interact with several types of receptors, which may explain both wanted and unwanted effects of these drugs. These effects are different and distinctive, and knowledge about them may help clinicians understand differences between compounds in terms of their tolerability profiles. Given roughly comparable efficacy, tolerability profile is the critical determinant in selecting an antidepressant medication for a particular patient. In addition, tolerability is inseparably linked to patient compliance, both in acute and long-term treatment, and ultimately to overall success of treatment. Refinement in pharmacologic profiles of all newly introduced antidepressants resulted in overall advantages in tolerability in comparison with older tricyclic compounds. However, differences in receptor interactions between antidepressants are directly reflected in tolerability (adverse event) profiles. Among new antidepressants, mirtazapine and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors share favorable overall tolerability and safety, especially with respect to low premature termination rates because of adverse events, cardiac safety, and safety in overdose. However, the different pharmacologic profile of mirtazapine is reflected in its different tolerability profile. Because of interactions with the histamine (H1) receptor, mirtazapine may be related to transient initial somnolence and weight gain in some patients. Its serotonin-2 (5-HT2)–blocking properties may account for lack of sexual dysfunction, insomnia, nervousness, and agitation. Mirtazapine’s 5-HT3-blocking properties are unique among all currently available antidepressants and may account for lack of gastrointestinal adverse events.

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(suppl 17):14-17