Bupropion: pharmacology and therapeutic applications

Expert Rev Neurother. 2006 Sep;6(9):1249-65. doi: 10.1586/14737175.6.9.1249.


A total of 17 years after its introduction, bupropion remains a safe and effective antidepressant, suitable for first-line use. Bupropion undergoes metabolic transformation to an active metabolite, 4-hydroxybupropion, through hepatic cytochrome P450-2B6 (CYP2B6) and has inhibitory effects on cytochrome P450-2D6 (CYP2D6), thus raising concern for clinically-relevant drug interactions. Common side effects are nervousness and insomnia. Nausea appears slightly less common than with the SSRI drugs and sexual dysfunction is probably the least of any antidepressant. Bupropion is relatively safe in overdose with seizures being the predominant concern. The mechanism of action of bupropion is still uncertain but may be related to inhibition of presynaptic dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake transporters. The activity of vesicular monoamine transporter-2, the transporter pumping dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin from the cytosol into presynaptic vesicles, is increased by bupropion and may be a component of its mechanism of action. Bupropion is approved for use in major depression and seasonal affective disorder and has demonstrated comparable efficacy to other antidepressants in clinical trials. Bupropion is also useful in augmenting a partial response to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, although bupropion should not be combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors. It may be less likely to provoke mania than antidepressants with prominent serotonergic effects. Bupropion is effective in helping people quit tobacco smoking. Anecdotal reports indicate bupropion may lower inflammatory mediators such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, may lower fatigue in cancer and may help reduce concentration problems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / pharmacology
  • Bupropion / adverse effects*
  • Bupropion / pharmacology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Seizures / chemically induced*
  • Seizures / prevention & control*


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Bupropion