Comparison of serotonin toxicity with concomitant use of either linezolid or comparators and serotonergic agents: an analysis of Phase III and IV randomized clinical trial data

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 Feb;67(2):494-502. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkr467. Epub 2011 Dec 2.


Objectives and methods: The present study's objective was to evaluate serotonin toxicity with concomitant use of linezolid or comparators and serotonergic agents from 20 Phase III and IV comparator-controlled clinical studies on treatment of various Gram-positive infections. All reported adverse events were evaluated for serotonin toxicity using exact and surrogate terms consistent with Sternbach Criteria and Hunter Serotonin Toxicity Criteria.

Results: Baseline demographics and co-morbidities were similar between linezolid and comparator groups. No patients in either group were reported to have adverse events identified as serotonin toxicity. Among the patients receiving at least one serotonergic agent, 9 of the 2208 (0.41%) linezolid patients and 3 of the 2057 (0.15%) comparator patients met the Sternbach Criteria [risk ratio (RR) 2.79; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.76-10.31]; 3 (0.14%) of the linezolid patients and 1 (0.05%) of the comparator patients met the Hunter Serotonin Toxicity Criteria (RR 2.79; 95% CI 0.29-26.85). No patients met both criteria. Most patients meeting criteria for serotonin toxicity had past or present co-morbidities that may have contributed to or overlapped with reported adverse events.

Conclusions: While the potential exists for serotonin toxicity to occur with concomitant use of linezolid and serotonergic agents, the risk appears to be low. Based on the large database of Phase III and IV studies included in our analysis, we did not find enough evidence to conclude that linezolid-induced serotonin toxicity was different from that of comparators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetamides / administration & dosage*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Clinical Trials, Phase IV as Topic
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Linezolid
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxazolidinones / administration & dosage*
  • Serotonin / administration & dosage*
  • Serotonin / adverse effects*
  • Serotonin Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Serotonin Agents / adverse effects*


  • Acetamides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Oxazolidinones
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Serotonin
  • Linezolid