International Psychogeriatrics

Treatment of Depression

Comparative Efficacy and Safety of Sertraline Versus Nortriptyline in Major Depression in Patients 70 and Older

Sanford I. Finkel a1, Ellen M. Richter a2 and Cathryn M. Clary a2
a1 Northwestern University School of Medicaine, Chicago, Illinois, USA
a2 Pfizer, Inc., New York, New York, USA.

Article author query
finkel s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
richter e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
clary c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. Few randomized, double-blind studies that examine antidepressant treatment in patients 70 years and older are available. To provide additional data on the safety and efficacy of antidepressants in this rapidly growing population segment, a subgroup analysis of a larger sertraline vs. nortriptyline elderly depression treatment study was performed. Methods. Outpatients (N = 76) who met DSM-III-R criteria for major depression with a minimum Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) severity score of 18 were randomized to 12 weeks of flexible dose treatment with sertraline (50–150 mg) or nortriptyline (25–100 mg). Results. Both treatments significantly improved depression as measured by the HAM-D and Clinical Global Impression scales. At Weeks 10, 12, and endpoint, sertraline demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in depression severity compared to nortriptyline as measured by improvement on the 24-item HAM-D (mean adjusted change score of 14.8 vs. 7.6, respectively, at Week 12; p = .001). Sixty-five percent of sertraline-treated patients were responders by Week 12 (50% or greater reduction from baseline in 24-item HAM-D score) compared to 26% of nortriptyline-treated patients (p < .05). Sertraline treatment had a significantly more positive effect, when compared to nortriptyline, across almost all associated measures of cognitive function, energy, anxiety, and quality of life and was better tolerated than nortriptyline, with a lower attrition rate/side effect burden. Conclusion. The efficacy advantage of sertraline appeared to be even greater in this subgroup of older patients drawn from a larger treatment study of depression that included elderly individuals over the age of 60.

(Received August 6 1998)
(Accepted November 16 1998)