Single-blind comparison of venlafaxine and nortriptyline in elderly major depression

J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003 Feb;23(1):21-6. doi: 10.1097/00004714-200302000-00004.


The objective of this single-blind study was to compare the efficacy and safety of venlafaxine extended-release and nortriptyline in elderly patients with moderate to severe major depression. In- and out-patients (N=68) with unipolar major depression were randomized to receive 6-month treatment with either nortriptyline or venlafaxine. Outcomes of the two groups were compared using measures including the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and the Newcastle Scale. Side effects were assessed with the UKU side-effect rating scale. Of the 34 venlafaxine-treated patients, 22 were remitters, 7 were nonremitters, and 5 dropped out. The intent-to-treat remission rate was 71% (22 of 31). Of the 34 who received nortriptyline, 21 were remitters, 7 were nonremitters, and 6 dropped out. The intent-to-treat remission rate was 70% (21 of 30). These results suggest that the remission rate with a therapeutic plasma level of nortriptyline is similar to the remission rate with a standard dose of venlafaxine in this group of elderly major depressed patients. No significant differences were observed between dropout rates in the two groups, but autonomic side-effects were significantly more frequent for nortriptyline than for venlafaxine. These results confirm the efficacy and safety of venlafaxine extended-release for treating elderly major depression.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use*
  • Cyclohexanols / adverse effects
  • Cyclohexanols / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nortriptyline / adverse effects
  • Nortriptyline / therapeutic use*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Cyclohexanols
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride
  • Nortriptyline