The treatment of depression with L-5-hydroxytryptophan versus imipramine. Results of two open and one double-blind study

Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr (1970). 1977 Oct 11;224(2):175-86.


In the last few years several open studies supported the hypothesis that L-5-HTP may be an effective antidepressant. Because of the lack of a controlled double-blind trial we started our own investigations to confirm this hypothesis in L-5-HTP. In 1972 we performed two open dose finding trials with L-5-HTP in combination with Benzerazide. These open studies were followed by a double-blind trial comparing L-5-HTP in combination with Benzerazide to Imipramine in 30 patients. Assessments were carried out on day 0, 5, 10, 15 and 20. For data collection we used the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, the AMP-system, a Global Rating Scale of Severity of Depression and a Brief Rating Scale for the Behaviour on the ward. In this article we report only a part of the results, mainly on the findings with the AMP-system and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. During our double-blind trial we could not find any significant difference in efficacy of L-5-HTP and Imipramine. The same was found in an open trial. Furthermore the L-5-HTP results showed no difference compared with the results of an Imipramine treatment in 40 patients in earlier double-blind studies. L-5-HTP and Imipramine caused different patterns of side effects. L-5-HTP caused mainly gastrointestinal side effects and Imipramine caused mainly dryness of the mouth and tremor. The gastrointestinal side effects caused by L-5-HTP seemed to be dose dependent.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / adverse effects
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Imipramine / adverse effects
  • Imipramine / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tremor / chemically induced
  • Xerostomia / chemically induced


  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan
  • Imipramine