Use of tricyclic antidepressants in older patients with painful neuropathies

Ariel Berger, Ellen M. Dukes, John Edelsberg, Brett R. Stacey, Gerry Oster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe patterns of use of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) (e.g., amitriptyline, nortriptyline) in older patients with painful neuropathies. Research design and methods: Using a large US health insurance claims database, we identified all persons who: (1) received a TCA between 1 January 1999 and 30 June 2001, (2) were aged ≥65 years as of the date of their first prescription for a TCA during this period, and (3) had one or more health care encounters for the treatment of a painful neuropathy in the 30-day period immediately preceding their initial receipt of a TCA. We then examined the prevalence of selected comorbidities and/or concurrent use of medications that might render the prescribing of a TCA inappropriate, based on a listing of contraindications, warnings, and precautions found in the package inserts for these agents. Patterns of TCA use also were examined, based on information on paid claims. Results: A total of 1,732 patients met all inclusion and exclusion criteria for the study. Their mean age was 74.6 years; 60.3% were women. Amitriptyline was the most frequently prescribed TCA (79.4% of patients). Forty-one percent of study subjects receiving TCAs had conditions-primarily cardiovascular-that render the use of such agents potentially inappropriate. The mean daily dose of TCAs was universally low (about 23 mg). Conclusions: The high prevalence of conditions rendering the use of TCAs potentially inappropriate, along with relatively low daily dosages, suggest that many older patients with painful neuropathies who are prescribed these agents may be suboptimally treated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-764
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Amitriptyline
  • Antidepressive agents
  • Contraindications
  • Neuralgia
  • Tricyclic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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