desipramine (Norpramin)

What is desipramine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Desipramine is an oral antidepressant, a member of the tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) family which also includes amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep), and imipramine (Tofranil). Depression is an all-pervasive sense of sadness and gloom. It is believed that in some patients with depression, abnormal levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that nerves use to communicate with each other) may be the cause of their depression. Desipramine elevates mood by raising the level of neurotransmitters in nerves of the brain. Desipramine also is responsible for the antidepressant effects of imipramine because imipramine is converted by the body to desipramine. The FDA approved desipramine in 1964.

What brand names are available for desipramine?


Is desipramine available as a generic drug?


Do I need a prescription for desipramine?


What are the side effects of desipramine?

The most commonly encountered side effects associated with desipramine include:

Desipramine also causes elevated pressure in the eyes of some patients with glaucoma. Overdoses of desipramine can cause life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms or seizures. Sexual dysfunction also has been associated with desipramine.

Following prolonged therapy with high doses, abrupt discontinuation of TCAs, including desipramine, could lead to symptoms such as:

Therefore, many doctors recommend a gradual reduction in dose when TCAs are discontinued.

Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in short-term studies in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of desipramine or any other antidepressant in a child or adolescent must balance this risk with the clinical need. Patients who are started on therapy should be closely observed for clinical worsening, suicidal thinking or behavior, and unusual changes in behavior.

What is the dosage for desipramine?

The usual adult dose is 100-200 mg at bedtime or divided every 12 hours. The maximum dose is 300 mg daily.


Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, Medication See Slideshow

Which drugs or supplements interact with desipramine?

: Desipramine interacts with other medications and drugs that slow the brain's function, such as alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, for example, lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), temazepam (Restoril), oxazepam (Serax), clonazepam (Klonopin) as well as zolpidem (Ambien) and narcotics. Reserpine has a stimulatory effect on patients taking TCAs.

Desipramine and other TCAs should not be used with monoamine oxidase inhibiting drugs, for example, isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and procarbazine (Matulane) since high fever, convulsions and even death can occur when these drugs are used together.

Cimetidine (Tagamet) can increase desipramine blood levels, possibly causing side effects. Other drugs which can increase disipramine blood levels include propafenone (Rythmol), flecainide (Tonocard), quinidine (Quinidex, Quinaglute), and fluoxetine (Prozac).

TCAs may inhibit the antihypertensive effect of clonidine (Catapres). Therefore, combining TCAs with clonidine may lead to dangerous elevations in blood pressure.

Is desipramine safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

Desipramine is secreted in breast milk and the effect on nursing infants is known. Nursing should be avoided while taking desipramine.

What else should I know about desipramine?

What preparations of desipramine are available?

Tablets: 10, 25, 50, 75, 100, and 150 mg.

How should I keep desipramine stored?

Desipramine should be stored at room temperature, below 86 F (30 C), in a tight, light resistant container.


Desipramine (Norpramin) is a medication prescribed for the treatment of depression. Off label uses include the treatment of anxiety, ADHD, cataplexy, chronic itching, bulimia, neuropathic pain, panic attacks, and depression caused by a traumatic brain injury. Side effects, drug interactions, warnings and precautions, and patient information should be reviewed prior to taking any medication.

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