Treatment of childhood hyperactivity with desipramine: plasma drug concentration, cardiovascular effects, plasma and urinary catecholamine levels, and clinical response

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1986 Jan;39(1):72-81. doi: 10.1038/clpt.1986.13.


Twenty-nine boys with attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity were randomly assigned to receive desipramine (DMI; n = 17) or placebo (n = 12) for 14 days in a noncrossover, double-blind study. There was immediate behavioral improvement with DMI at day 3 that was sustained for 2 weeks; behavioral improvement did not correlate with plasma concentrations of DMI, hydroxy-DMI, or their sum at either days 3 or 14. There were no untoward side effects; there was a drug-induced increase in pulse and diastolic blood pressure. During drug therapy, the urinary excretion of norepinephrine, vanillymandelic acid, and 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) was decreased at both days 3 and 14. The plasma MHPG level was decreased at days 3 and 14 and (standing) plasma NE levels increased at day 14. The decreases in both urinary and plasma MHPG levels showed significant correlations with behavioral improvement during the second week. These data corroborate previous findings on sympathomimetic effects of tricyclic antidepressants in children and support a noradrenergic mechanism in the mediation of drug effects on attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Desipramine / blood
  • Desipramine / metabolism
  • Desipramine / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Homovanillic Acid / blood
  • Homovanillic Acid / urine
  • Humans
  • Hyperkinesis / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / blood
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / urine
  • Norepinephrine / blood*
  • Norepinephrine / urine
  • Random Allocation


  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol
  • Desipramine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Homovanillic Acid