(+)-Amphetamine, (+/-)-ephedrine, and phentermine are commonly used appetite suppressants that release monoamines from nerve cells by acting as substrates for biogenic amine transporters. One key difference among the three drugs is their selectivity for norepinephrine (NE) release vs. dopamine (DA) release. The NE/DA selectivity ratios for these drugs as determined in vitro [(EC50 NE(-1))/(EC50 DA(-1))] are (+/-)-ephedrine (18.6) > phentermine (6.7) > (+)-amphetamine (3.5). The in vitro data suggest that when administered in vivo, these stimulants might differ in their ability to release DA from nerve terminals in the brain. To test this hypothesis, noradrenergic effects (i.e., plasma NE) and dopaminergic effects (i.e., central DA release) were assessed when each drug was administered intravenously (1.5 mg/kg) to anesthetized baboons. Central DA release was determined via positron emission tomography using the method of [11C]raclopride displacement. In the present investigation, high doses of these stimulants increased plasma NE and DA in parallel, but only (+)-amphetamine released central DA from neurons and decreased plasma prolactin. None of the drugs altered plasma amine metabolite levels, indicating no inhibition of monoamine oxidase activity at the administered doses. Plasma drug levels measured in baboons were higher than those measured in human patients taking prescribed doses of the drugs. Viewed collectively, the present data indicate that typical clinical doses of phentermine and (+/-)-ephedrine may not release central DA in humans, a hypothesis that should ultimately be tested in controlled clinical studies.
2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.