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Zoloft and Nortriptyline Equally Effective for Postpartum Depression

September 5, 2006 -- Two common antidepressants, Zoloft (sertraline) and nortriptyline, have been demonstrated to be both safe and effective in treating postpartum depression, according to a new study.

Zoloft and nortriptyline are from two different drug classes – Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), while nortriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant. The study, conducted by University of Pittsburgh researchers, was one of the first to compare use of drugs from the two classes for treating postpartum depression.

Results were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology and reported by on August 24.

"We’ve been treating postpartum depression based on the assumption that drugs that work for a woman with depression under usual circumstances, will work for a women who experiences depression after giving birth, but there have not been studies that provide scientific proof that this was an effective and safe course of treatment," Dr Katherine L Wisner, professor of psychiatry and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, reportedly said.

Clinical Trial

The trial by Dr Wisner and colleagues began with 109 women randomized to receive either Zoloft or nortriptyline. Of those participants, 95 provided response data at four weeks, 83 provided data at eight weeks, and 29 completed 20-24 weeks of the study.

The results showed that the drugs produced similar improvements in psychosocial functioning. Also, Zoloft and nortriptyline exhibited equal effects in treating aggressive, obsessional thoughts.

At week four, 46 participants on Zoloft had exhibited reduced depressive symptoms and 27% had remitted (i.e., had few depressive symptoms). In the case of nortriptyline, 56% of participants on nortriptyline responded and 30% remitted.

At 20-24 weeks, of the 29 women who remained in the study, 93% on Zoloft had responded and 73% had remitted. In the nortriptyline group, 100% of participants had responded and 79% had remitted.

For more information about postpartum depression, contact the American Psychiatric Association.

Postpartum Depression: A Randomized Trial of Sertraline Versus Nortriptyline. KL Wisner, Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, volume 26, number 4, pages 353-360, August 2006.

Posted: September 2006