Quantification and mechanism of the fluoxetine and tricyclic antidepressant interaction

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1992 Mar;51(3):239-48. doi: 10.1038/clpt.1992.18.


Clinical reports of concurrent use of fluoxetine and tricyclic antidepressant agents suggest that tricyclic concentrations increase upon coadministration with fluoxetine. This study was conducted to confirm the clinical reports, to quantify the degree of change in tricyclic kinetics, and to establish the mechanism of interaction. Twelve male subjects were given 50 mg desipramine (six subjects) or 50 mg imipramine (six subjects) on three occasions: alone, after a 60 mg dose of fluoxetine, and after eight daily 60 mg doses of fluoxetine. Fluoxetine significantly reduced oral clearance of both imipramine and desipramine as much as tenfold and prolonged half-life as much as fourfold. Desipramine oral clearance values were 289, 112, and 27 L/hr alone, after a single fluoxetine dose, and after multiple fluoxetine doses, respectively. Correspondingly, imipramine oral clearance values were 181, 87, and 51 L/hr. These kinetic changes resulted in significantly higher plasma tricyclic concentrations after fluoxetine administration. The amount of parent drug excreted unchanged in urine increased and imipramine or desipramine clearance to their respective 2-hydroxy metabolites decreased. Metabolic conversion of imipramine to desipramine appeared to be unaffected. The findings indicate that fluoxetine causes an inhibition of tricyclic 2-hydroxylation and may decrease first-pass and systemic metabolism. When imipramine or desipramine are to be coadministered with fluoxetine, a lower dosage may be needed to maintain steady-state concentrations and to avoid undesirable side effects caused by excessive tricyclic concentrations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Desipramine / adverse effects
  • Desipramine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Drug Interactions
  • Fluoxetine / administration & dosage
  • Fluoxetine / adverse effects
  • Fluoxetine / analogs & derivatives
  • Fluoxetine / pharmacokinetics
  • Fluoxetine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Imipramine / adverse effects
  • Imipramine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Fluoxetine
  • norfluoxetine
  • Imipramine
  • Desipramine