A differential response to nortriptyline and fluoxetine in melancholic depression: the importance of age and gender


Peter R Joyce, Department of Psychological Medicine, Christchurch School of Medicine & Health Sciences, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand
E-mail: peter.joyce@chmeds.ac.nz


Objective: To consider the impact of age and gender on the antidepressant response to nortriptyline and fluoxetine in melancholic depression.

Method: Of 191 depressed patients, 113 met study criteria for melancholia. All patients were randomized to receive either fluoxetine or nortriptyline. Response rates, defined as an improvement of 60% or more on the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale over 6 weeks of antidepressant treatment on an intention to treat basis, were examined by age, and by age and gender.

Results: Melancholic depressed patients 40 years or older, especially men, had a markedly superior response to nortriptyline compared with fluoxetine. Conversely, melancholic depressed patients, age18–24 years, especially women, had a markedly superior response to fluoxetine.

Conclusion: Age and gender appear to be critical variables in understanding differential antidepressant responses to tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in melancholic depression.