Therapeutic Drug Monitoring of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Elderly Patients

Ther Drug Monit. 2015 Aug;37(4):546-9. doi: 10.1097/FTD.0000000000000169.


Background: Elderly patients are at increased risk for elevated serum concentrations from treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The aim of this study was to examine the use of therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) of SSRIs in elderly compared with younger patients.

Methods: All serum concentration measurements of SSRIs (escitalopram, citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline) performed at our laboratory in 2011 were included. The use of TDM (relative frequency) in older versus younger patients was examined by comparing the use of TDM in patients aged 60 years or older with that in patients younger than 60 years and by evaluating the use of TDM relative to age (age groups in decennials). The number of patients with an SSRI dispensed by prescription in the same region and period (the Norwegian Prescription Database) was used as reference. Additionally, the number of samples above the upper limit of the recommended reference range in patients aged 60 years or older and patients younger than 60 years was evaluated.

Results: TDM of an SSRI had been performed in 6333 patients. For all SSRIs, the use of TDM was significantly lower (8.2% versus 10.6% for citalopram, 10.0% versus 13.8% for escitalopram, 8.6% versus 17.0% for fluoxetine, 5.6% versus 10.3% for paroxetine, and 8.1% versus 15.0% for sertraline) in patients aged 60 years or older compared with those younger than 60 years (P < 0.001). There was a gradual decline in the use of TDM with increasing age, with a 3-fold difference between the youngest (10-19) and oldest (90+) patients (P < 0.0001). The percentage of samples above the upper limit of the recommended reference range was 2-fold higher in patients aged 60 years or older (6.7%) compared with patients younger than 60 (3.4%) years (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Clinical follow-up of patients with TDM of SSRIs is less frequent in older patients compared with younger patients. This is in contrast to the general guidelines for TDM where patients of advanced age are considered of particular importance to monitor closely.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Citalopram / blood
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Monitoring*
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / blood
  • Fluvoxamine / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Paroxetine / blood
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / blood*
  • Sertraline / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Fluoxetine
  • Citalopram
  • Paroxetine
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Sertraline