The effect of sertraline on the pharmacokinetics of desipramine and imipramine

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1997 Aug;62(2):145-56. doi: 10.1016/S0009-9236(97)90062-X.


Objective: To examine the pharmacokinetic interaction between the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline and the tricyclic antidepressants desipramine or imipramine in 12 healthy male subjects.

Methods: Participants received a 50 mg single dose of either desipramine or imipramine under three conditions: alone, after a single 150 mg dose of sertraline, and after the eighth daily 150 mg dose of sertraline. Plasma samples were analyzed for desipramine or imipramine concentration by HPLC with electrochemical detection, and pharmacokinetics were determined with use of noncompartmental analysis of individual data.

Results: Multiple-dose, but not single-dose, treatment with sertraline significantly reduced apparent plasma clearance (CL/F) and prolonged the half-life of desipramine relative to baseline. These changes resulted in higher plasma desipramine concentrations, as indicated by a significant increase in maximum plasma concentration (Cmax) and area under the plasma concentration-time curve extrapolated to infinity [AUC(0-infinity)] (22% and 54%, respectively). Both single- and multiple-dose treatment with sertraline significantly reduced the CL/F of imipramine. This effect was stronger after multiple predoses of sertraline, when imipramine Cmax and AUC(0-infinity) were increased by 39% and 68%, respectively. These treatment effects were consistent between individuals.

Conclusions: This pharmacokinetic interaction is likely the result of an inhibition of CYP2D6 tricyclic metabolism by sertraline. When a tricyclic antidepressant, such as desipramine or imipramine, is coadministered with sertraline, lower dosages of the tricyclic agents may be necessary to prevent elevated tricyclic levels.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • 1-Naphthylamine / adverse effects
  • 1-Naphthylamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • 1-Naphthylamine / pharmacology
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Desipramine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Imipramine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Sertraline


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • 1-Naphthylamine
  • Imipramine
  • Sertraline
  • Desipramine