Serum disposition of sertraline, N-desmethylsertraline and paroxetine: a pharmacokinetic evaluation of repeated drug concentration measurements during 6 months of treatment for major depression

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004 Jul;19(5):283-91. doi: 10.1002/hup.599.


Sertraline and paroxetine are frequently prescribed SSRIs for long-term treatment of major depression. Nevertheless, continuous follow-ups of drug concentrations prevailing in patients during the whole treatment period are not available. Hence, in a large phase IV clinical trial, a total of 353 patients with major depression were enrolled for a 6-month comparison of sertraline (50-150 mg daily) and paroxetine (20-60 mg daily). The present study reports the pharmacokinetic results of up to eight serum samples per patient. 1. A profound variability was found in the interindividual steady state and trough serum levels of sertraline, desmethylsertraline and paroxetine: the coefficient of variation (CV) was 59% for sertraline, 51% for desmethylsertraline, 27% for the ratio desmethylsertraline/sertraline (50 mg/day), and 71% for paroxetine (20 mg/day). The intraindividual CV for the ratio desmethylsertraline/sertraline was only 19%, indicating intraindividual metabolizing stability over time. Both sertraline and paroxetine displayed sex differences in the dose-concentration correlation. 2. It was possible to predict sertraline, but not paroxetine, steady state levels. 3. The terminal elimination t(1/2) for both drugs after 6 months of treatments was similar to data previously reported from short-term withdrawal studies. 4. No correlation between serum drug concentrations and clinical effect was detected for either sertraline or paroxetine. For the future, continuous efforts are warranted to perform PK investigations in the natural clinical setting in which the drugs are usually prescribed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase IV
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Female
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paroxetine / blood*
  • Paroxetine / pharmacokinetics
  • Paroxetine / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / blood*
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Sertraline / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sertraline / blood*
  • Sertraline / pharmacokinetics
  • Sertraline / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Factors


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Paroxetine
  • desmethylsertraline
  • Sertraline