Nefazodone in Major Depression: Adjunctive Benzodiazepine Therapy and Tolerability

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One hundred sixty-six patients suffering from major depressive disorders were treated for 8 weeks with nefazodone in an open study in dosage ranges from 200 to 600 mg. This report focuses primarily on the first week of therapy and on the concomitant use of several benzodiazepines, one of which is not metabolized by the cytochrome system (temazepam). Triazolam response was further evaluated as a function of two nefazodone dosage regimens provided during the first week of therapy, one group receiving nefazodone 200 mg/day for 7 days, and another group receiving nefazodone 200 mg/day for 3 days, followed by 4 days with 400 mg/day. Finally, a comparison of three different nefazodone dosages, the third being 400 mg from day 1 on, was also carried out. Outcome measures included Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression total and the total of the three Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression insomnia items, as well as global improvement, a daily completed sleep questionnaire, and adverse event assessment.

A combination of nefazodone with a benzodiazepine (BZ) caused more sedation than nefazodone alone; triazolam, the BZ with the shortest half-life and the highest dependence on the cytochrome 450 system for its metabolism, caused the least amount of sedation, and alprazolam and diazepam, the two daytime benzodiazepines, caused the most sedation. Triazolam caused significant and identical reduction of insomnia in both nefazodone groups. Compared with nefazodone 200 mg given as monotherapy, insomnia was significantly improved-not only by triazolam, but also alprazolam and diazepam, but not temazepam. The addition of nefazodone raised triazolam plasma levels to almost 500%, the plasma level of desmethyl-diazepam 87%, and that of alprazolam 34%. Temazepam plasma levels remained unchanged.

When prescribing nefazodone with a benzodiazepine, one should expect an improved sleep pattern initially, but at the cost of clinically relevant daytime sedation.The prediction that temazepam, the only BZ not dependent on the cytochrome mechanism for metabolism, should be the least sedating, and triazolam, because of its cytochromic metabolism interference with nefazodone should be the most sedating, could not be confirmed. In fact, triazolam 0.25 mg capsules seem to be the safest treatment of choice when one has to combine a benzodiazepine with nefazodone in initial stages of therapy, at least of the four benzodiazepines tested in this study. (J Clin Psychopharmacol 1998;18:145-153)

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