Conventional and new antidepressant drugs in the elderly
Gareri P, Falconi U, De Fazio P, De Sarro G.
Chair of Pharmacology and Chair of Psychiatry,
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine "Gaetano Salvatore",
Faculty of Medicine, University of Catanzaro,
Policlinico Materdomini, via Tommaso Campanella,
88100, Catanzaro, Italy.
Prog Neurobiol 2000 Jul;61(4):353-96


Depression in the elderly is nowadays a predominant health care problem, mainly due to the progressive aging of the population. It results from psychosocial stress, polypathology, as well as some biochemical changes which occur in the aged brain and can lead to cognitive impairments, increased symptoms from medical illness, higher utilization of health care services and increased rates of suicide and nonsuicide mortality. Therefore, it is very important to make an early diagnosis and a suitable pharmacological treatment, not only for resolving the acute episode, but also for preventing relapse and enhancing the quality of life. Age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and in pharmacodynamics have to be kept into account before prescribing an antidepressant therapy in an old patient. In this paper some of the most important and tolerated drugs in the elderly are reviewed. Tricyclic antidepressants have to be used carefully for their important side effects. Nortriptyline, amytriptiline, clomipramine and desipramine as well, seem to be the best tolerated tricyclics in old people. Second generation antidepressants are preferred for the elderly and those patients with heart disease as they have milder side effects and are less toxic in overdose and include the so called atypicals, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin noradrenalene reuptake inhibitors and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors are useful drugs in resistant forms of depression in which the above mentioned drugs have no efficacy; the last generation drugs (reversible MAO inhibitors), such as meclobemide, seem to be very successful. Mood stabilizing drugs are widely used for preventing recurrences of depression and for preventing and treating bipolar illness. They include lithium, which is sometimes used especially to prevent recurrence of depression, even if its use is limited in old patients for its side effects, the anticonvulsants carbamazepine and valproic acid. Putative last generation mood stabilizing drugs include the dihydropyridine L-type calcium channel blockers and the anticonvulsants phenytoin, lamotrigine, gabapentin and topiramate, which have unique mechanisms of action and also merit further systematic study. Psychotherapy is often used as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy, while electroconvulsant therapy is used only in the elderly patients with severe depression, high risk of suicide or drug resistant forms.
Atypical depression
Retarded depression
New antidepressants
Depression and dementia
Antidepressants and the elderly

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