Current Trends in the Development of New Antidepressants
Early antidepressant medications e.g. tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are effective because they enhance either noradrenergic or serotonergic mechanisms, or both. Unfortunately, these compounds block cholinergic, histaminergic and alpha 1 adrenergic receptor sites, interact with a number of other medications and bring about numerous undesirable side effects. Several chemically unrelated agents have been developed and introduced in the past decade to supplement the early antidepressants. These include selective inhibitors of the reuptake of serotonin (the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)) or noradrenaline (reboxetine) or both (SNRIs milnacipran and venlafaxine), as well as drugs with distinct neurochemical profiles such as mirtazapine, nefazodone, moclobemide and tianeptine. All these newer compounds are the results of rational developmental strategies to find drugs that were as effective as the TCAs but of higher safety and tolerability profile. In spite of the remarkable structural diversity, most currently introduced antidepressants are monoamin based and modulating monoamine activity as a therapeutic strategy continues to dominate antidepressant research. It must be emphasised, however, that these newer antidepressants are far from the ideal ones, also resulting in undesirable side effects and requiring 2-6 weeks of treatment to produce therapeutic effect. Furthermore, approximately 30 percent of the population do not respond to current therapies. An important new development has been the emergence of potential novel mechanisms of action beyond the monoaminergic synapse. The results of recent novel developmental approaches have suggested that modulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), neuropeptide (substance P and corticotrophin-releasing factor) receptors and the intracellular messenger system may provide an entirely new set of potential therapeutic targets. This paper discusses the advances from monoamine-based treatment strategies and looks at the future developments in the treatment of depression.
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Document Type: Review Article
Publication date: 01 February 2001
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