Use of Tricyclic Antidepressants in Older Patients With Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

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Abstract

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.

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