Nortriptyline hydrochloride is indicated for the relief of symptoms of depression.Endogenous depressions are more likely to be alleviated than are other depressive states.
The concurrent use of nortriptyline hydrochloride or other tricyclic antidepressants with a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor is contraindicated.
Hyperpyretic crises, severe convulsions, and fatalities have occurred when similar tricyclic antidepressants were used in such combinations.It is advisable to discontinue the MAO inhibitor at least 2 weeks before treatment with nortriptyline hydrochloride is to be started.Patients hypersensitive to nortriptyline hydrochloride should not be given the drug.Cross-sensitivity between nortriptyline hydrochloride and other dibenzazepines is a possibility.Nortriptyline hydrochloride is contraindicated during the acute recovery period after myocardial infarction.
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), both adult and pediatric, may experience worsening of their depression and/or the emergence of suicidal ideation and behavior (suicidality) or unusual changes in behavior, whether or not they are taking antidepressant medications, and this risk may persist until significant remission occurs.
Suicide is a known risk of depression and certain other psychiatric disorders and these disorders themselves are the strongest predictors of suicide.
There has been a long-standing concern, however, that antidepressants may have a role in inducing worsening of depression and the emergence of suicidality in certain patients during the early phases of treatment.
Pooled analyses of short-term placebo-controlled trials of antidepressant drugs (SSRIs and others) showed that these drugs increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 18 to 24) with major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.
Short-term studies did not show an increase in the risk of suicidality with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults beyond age 24; there was a reduction with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults aged 65 and older.The pooled analyses of placebo-controlled trials in children and adolescents with MDD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or other psychiatric disorders included a total of 24 short-term trials of 9 antidepressant drugs in over 4400 patients.
The pooled analyses of placebo-controlled trials in adults with MDD or other psychiatric disorders included a total of 295 short-term trials (median duration of 2 months) of 11 antidepressant drugs in over 77,000 patients.
There was considerable variation in risk of suicidality among drugs, but a tendency toward an increase in the younger patients for almost all drugs studied.
There were differences in absolute risk of suicidality across the different indications, with the highest incidence in MDD.
The risk differences (drug vs placebo), however, were relatively stable within age strata and across indications.
These risk differences (drug-placebo difference in the number of cases of suicidality per 1000 patients treated) are provided in Table 1. TABLE 1 Age Range Drug-Placebo Difference in Number of Cases of Suicidality per 1000 Patients Treated Increases Compared to Placebo <18 14 additional cases 18 to 24 5 additional cases Decreases Compared to Placebo 25 to 64 1 fewer case ?65 6 fewer cases No suicides occurred in any of the pediatric trials.
There were suicides in the adult trials, but the number was not sufficient to reach any conclusion about drug effect on suicide.It is unknown whether the suicidality risk extends to longer-term use, i.e., beyond several months.
However, there is substantial evidence from placebo-controlled maintenance trials in adults with depression that the use of antidepressants can delay the recurrence of depression.All patients being treated with antidepressants for any indication should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the initial few months of a course of drug therapy, or at times of dose changes, either increases or decreases.The following symptoms, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania, have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder as well as for other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric.
Although a causal link between the emergence of such symptoms and either the worsening of depression and/or the emergence of suicidal impulses has not been established, there is concern that such symptoms may represent precursors to emerging suicidality.Consideration should be given to changing the therapeutic regimen, including possibly discontinuing the medication, in patients whose depression is persistently worse, or who are experiencing emergent suicidality or symptoms that might be precursors to worsening depression or suicidality, especially if these symptoms are severe, abrupt in onset, or were not part of the patient's presenting symptoms.Families and caregivers of pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder or other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric, should be alerted about the need to monitor patients for the emergence of agitation, irritability, unusual changes in behavior, and the other symptoms described above, as well as the emergence of suicidality, and to report such symptoms immediately to health care providers.
Such monitoring should include daily observation by families and caregivers.
Prescriptions for nortriptyline hydrochloride oral solution should be written for the smallest quantity consistent with good patient management, in order to reduce the risk of overdose.Screening Patients for Bipolar Disorder: A major depressive episode may be the initial presentation of bipolar disorder.
It is generally believed (though not established in controlled trials) that treating such an episode with an antidepressant alone may increase the likelihood of precipitation of a mixed/manic episode in patients at risk for bipolar disorder.
Whether any of the symptoms described above represent such a conversion is unknown.
However, prior to initiating treatment with an antidepressant, patients with depressive symptoms should be adequately screened to determine if they are at risk for bipolar disorder; such screening should include a detailed psychiatric history, including a family history of suicide, bipolar disorder, and depression.
It should be noted that nortriptyline hydrochloride is not approved for use in treating bipolar depression.Patients with cardiovascular disease should be given nortriptyline hydrochloride only under close supervision because of the tendency of the drug to produce sinus tachycardia and to prolong the conduction time.
Myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, and strokes have occurred.
The antihypertensive action of guanethidine and similar agents may be blocked.
Because of its anticholinergic activity, nortriptyline hydrochloride should be used with great caution in patients who have glaucoma or a history of urinary retention.
Patients with a history of seizures should be followed closely when nortriptyline hydrochloride is administered, because this drug is known to lower the convulsive threshold.
Great care is required if nortriptyline hydrochloride is given to hyperthyroid patients or to those receiving thyroid medication, because cardiac arrhythmias may develop.Nortriptyline hydrochloride may impair the mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of hazardous tasks, such as operating machinery or driving a car; therefore, the patient should be warned accordingly.Excessive consumption of alcohol in combination with nortriptyline therapy may have a potentiating effect, which may lead to the danger of increased suicidal attempts or overdosage, especially in patients with histories of emotional disturbances or suicidal ideation.Use in Pregnancy--Safe use of nortriptyline hydrochloride during pregnancy and lactation has not been established; therefore, when the drug is administered to pregnant patients, nursing mothers, or women of childbearing potential, the potential benefits must be weighed against the possible hazards.Animal reproduction studies have yielded inconclusive results.