All antidepressants may not be created equal when it comes to worsening of suicidal ideation during treatment, researchers found.
Men taking nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor) were 2.4 times more likely to have an increase in suicidal thoughts than were those taking escitalopram (Lexapro), Nader Perroud, MD, of King's College London, and colleagues reported online in BMC Medicine.
Nortriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, was also associated with a 9.8-fold higher risk of new onset of suicidal ideation compared with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) in the prospective open-label trial.
The reason behind the difference may be that nortriptyline acts predominantly on the noradrenergic system, which, when overactive, is associated with anxiety and agitation.
Because "suicidal ideation is more common in agitated and irritable types of depression," the researchers said, "it is possible that nortriptyline may induce or worsen suicidal thoughts in some male subjects possibly through an induction of this more agitated type of depression."
Another possibility is that nortriptyline is less effective against mood symptoms, they noted.
All antidepressants now carry black box warnings of suicidality risk, particularly in children and young adults, and especially early in treatment, but whether this risk differs between agents or by gender has been debated.
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