Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. A perspective on their use in the elderly

Drugs Aging. 1998 Nov;13(5):341-55. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199813050-00002.


Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are mainly used in psychiatry for the treatment of depressive disorders and in neurology for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. While the classical, nonselective and nonreversible MAOIs, such as phenelzine and tranylcypromine, are characterised by the risk of inducing a hypertensive crisis when dietary tyramine is ingested, the selective monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) inhibitor selegiline (deprenyl) and, even more so, the selective and reversible monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) inhibitor moclobemide, are free from this potential interaction. Drug tolerability data for the elderly show that moclobemide is one of the most well tolerated compounds. Selegiline, especially when used in combination with levodopa, can cause anorexia, dry mouth, dyskinesia and, most problematic, orthostatic hypotension. For the traditional MAOIs, phenelzine and tranylcypromine, published data are insufficient to be able to give a conclusive tolerability statement regarding the use of these compounds in elderly people. Although orthostatic hypotension occurs in most patients treated with traditional MAOIs, the incidence in elderly patients with depression does not appear to be greater than that reported with tricyclic antidepressants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Food-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Monoamine Oxidase / physiology
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / classification
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Tyramine / adverse effects


  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Tyramine