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Laakmann, G.; Hennig, J.; Baghai, Thomas C. and Schule, C. (2003): Influence of mirtazapine on salivary cortisol in depressed patients. In: Neuropsychobiology, No. 1: pp. 31-36 [PDF, 94kB]

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Unlike other antidepressants, mirtazapine does not inhibit the reuptake of norepinephrine or serotonin but acts as an antagonist at presynaptic alpha(2)-receptors, at postsynaptic 5-HT2 and 5-HT3 receptors, and at histaminergic H1 receptors. Furthermore, mirtazapine has been shown to acutely inhibit cortisol secretion in healthy subjects. In the present study, the impact of mirtazapine treatment on salivary cortisol secretion was investigated in 12 patients (4 men, 8 women) suffering from major depression according to DSM-IV criteria. Patients were treated with mirtazapine for 3 weeks, receiving 15 mg mirtazapine on day 0, 30 mg on day 1 and 45 mg per day from day 2 up to the end of the study (day 21). Response to mirtazapine treatment was defined by a reduction of at least 50% in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression after 3 weeks of therapy. Salivary cortisol concentrations were measured before treatment (day -1), at the beginning of treatment (day 0), after 1 week (day 7) and after 3 weeks (day 21) of treatment with mirtazapine. Saliva samples were collected hourly from 08.00 until 20.00 h. The area under the curve values served as parameter for the salivary cortisol secretion. Following analysis of variance with a repeated measures design, tests with contrasts revealed a significant reduction of cortisol concentrations already after 1 day of mirtazapine treatment that was comparable in responders and nonresponders. In addition to new pharmacological approaches such as CRH1 receptor antagonists, mirtazapine therefore appears to be an effective strategy to decrease hypercortisolism and restore HPA system dysregulation in depression. However, the importance of the acute inhibitory effects of mirtazapine on cortisol secretion for its antidepressant efficacy has to be further clarified. Copyright (C) 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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