Use of tricyclic antidepressants in older patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy

Ariel Berger, Ellen Dukes, John Edelsberg, Brett Stacey, Gerry Oster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To describe patterns of use of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) (eg, amitriptyline, nortriptyline) among older patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using a large, integrated, US health-insurance claims database, we identified all patients who received TCAs between January 1, 1999 and June 30, 2001 ("study period"). Among these persons, we then selected those who: (1) were aged ≥65 years as of the date of first receipt of a TCA during the study period; and (2) had one or more healthcare encounters with a diagnosis of DPN in the 30-day period immediately preceding date of first receipt of a TCA. We then examined the prevalence of selected comorbidities and concurrent use of medications which might render inappropriate the prescribing of TCAs, based on a listing of contraindications, warnings, and precautions found in the package inserts for these medications. Patterns of TCA prescribing were examined, based on information on paid claims. RESULTS: There were 349 DPN patients, aged ≥65 years, who received TCAs. Mean age was 73.8 years, 55.9% were women, and 17.9% had diagnoses of depression. Most patients (84.0%) began therapy with amitriptyline. Almost one-half of study patients had indicators of potentially inappropriate TCA use, primarily cardiovascular comorbidities. Mean TCA dose among patients with and without these indicators was 23.3 (±13.4) mg and 25.4 (±15.3) mg, respectively (P=0.42). CONCLUSIONS: The high prevalence of contraindications, warnings, or precautions and the low level of TCA exposure suggest that many older patients with DPN who receive TCAs may be inappropriately treated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-258
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Amitriptyline
  • Antidepressive agents
  • Contraindications
  • Diabetic neuropathies
  • Tricyclic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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