Mirtazapine came into medical use in the United States in 1996. The patent expired in 2004, and generic versions are available. In 2020, it was the 104th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States with more than 6million prescriptions.
In 2010, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended generic selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors as first line choices, as they are "equally effective as other antidepressants and have a favourable risk–benefit ratio." With respect to mirtazapine, it found: "There is no difference between mirtazapine and other antidepressants on any efficacy measure, although in terms of achieving remission mirtazapine appears to have a statistical though not clinical advantage. In addition, mirtazapine has a statistical advantage over selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in terms of reducing symptoms of depression, but the difference is not clinically significant. However, there is strong evidence that patients taking mirtazapine are less likely to leave treatment early because of side effects, although this is not the case for patients reporting side effects or leaving treatment early for any reason."
A 2011 Cochrane review that compared mirtazapine to other antidepressants found that, while it appears to have a faster onset in people for whom it works (measured at two weeks), its efficacy is about the same as other antidepressants after six weeks' use.
A 2012 review focused on antidepressants and sleep found that in many people with sleep disorders caused by depression, mirtazapine reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the quality of sleep, but that in some people it can disturb sleep, especially at higher doses, causing restless leg syndrome in 8 to 28% of people and in rare cases causes REM sleep behavior disorder. This seemingly paradoxical dose–response curve of mirtazapine with respect to somnolence is owed to the exceptionally high affinity of the drug for the histamineH1, 5-HT2A, and 5-HT2C receptors; exhibiting near exclusive occupation of these receptors at doses ≤15 mg. However, at higher doses, inverse antagonism and constitutive activation of the α2A-, α2B-, and α2C-adrenergic receptors begins to offset activity at H1 receptors leading to decreased somnolence and even a subjective sensation of "activation" in treated patients.
A 2018 analysis of 21 antidepressants found them to be fairly similar overall. It found tentative evidence for mirtazapine being in the more effective group and middle in tolerability.
After one week of usage, mirtazapine was found to have an earlier onset of action compared to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
There is also some evidence supporting its use in treating the following conditions, for which it is sometimes prescribed off-label:
Doses of mirtazapine used for sleep range from 7.5 to 45 mg. Doses of 7.5 to 15 mg are recommended as mirtazapine may become more stimulating at higher doses.[failed verification]
A 2011 Cochrane review found that, compared with other antidepressants, it is more likely to cause weight gain and sleepiness, but it is less likely to cause tremor than tricyclic antidepressants, and less likely to cause nausea and sexual dysfunction than selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
In general, some antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, can paradoxically exacerbate some peoples' depression or anxiety or cause suicidal ideation. Despite its sedating action, mirtazapine is also believed to be capable of this, so in the United States and certain other countries, it carries a black box label warning of these potential effects, especially for people under the age of 25.
Mirtazapine has been associated with an increased risk of death compared to other antidepressants in several studies. However, it is more likely that the residual differences between people prescribed mirtazapine rather than a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor account for the difference in risk of mortality.
Mirtazapine is considered to be relatively safe in the event of an overdose, although it is considered slightly more toxic in overdose than most of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (except citalopram). Unlike the tricyclic antidepressants, mirtazapine showed no significant cardiovascularadverse effects at 7 to 22 times the maximum recommended dose.
Twelve reported fatalities have been attributed to mirtazapine overdose. The fatal toxicity index (deaths per million prescriptions) for mirtazapine is 3.1 (95% CI: 0.1 to 17.2). This is similar to that observed with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.[unreliable medical source?]
According to information from the manufacturers, mirtazapine should not be started within two weeks of any monoamine oxidase inhibitor usage; likewise, monoamine oxidase inhibitors should not be administered within two weeks of discontinuing mirtazapine.
The addition of mirtazapine to a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, while potentially having typical or idiosyncratic (unique to the individual) reactions not herein described, does not appear to cause serotonin syndrome. This is in accordance with the fact that the 5-HT2A receptor is the predominant serotonin receptor thought to be involved in the pathophysiology of serotonin syndrome (with the 5-HT1A receptor seeming to be protective). Mirtazapine is a potent 5-HT2A receptor antagonist, and cyproheptadine, a medication that shares this property, mediates recovery from serotonin syndrome and is an antidote against it.
There is a possible interaction that results in a hypertensive crisis when mirtazapine is given to a patient that has already been on steady doses of clonidine. This involves a subtle consideration, when patients have been on chronic therapy with clonidine and suddenly stop the dosing, a rapid hypertensive rebound sometimes (20%) occurs from increased sympathetic outflow. Clonidine's blood pressure lowering effects are due to stimulation of presynaptic α2 autoreceptors in the CNS which suppress sympathetic outflow. Mirtazapine itself blocks these same α2 autoreceptors, so the effect of adding mirtazapine to a patient stabilized on clonidine may precipitate withdrawal symptoms.
Mirtazapine is a potent antagonist of 5-HT2a and 5-HT3 receptors. Mirtazapine has no significant affinity for the 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptors. Mirtazapine is a potent antagonist of histamine H1 receptors, a property that may explain its prominent sedative effects.
The (S)-(+) enantiomer of mirtazapine is responsible for antagonism of the serotonin 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors, while the (R)-(–) enantiomer is responsible for antagonism of the 5-HT3 receptor. Both enantiomers are involved in antagonism of the H1 and α2-adrenergic receptors, although the (S)-(+) enantiomer is the stronger antihistamine.
Antagonism of the 5-HT2 subfamily of receptors and inverse agonism of the 5-HT2C receptor appears to be in part responsible for mirtazapine's efficacy in the treatment of depressive states.
Mirtazapine increases dopamine release in the prefrontal cortex. Accordingly, it was shown that by blocking the α2-adrenergic receptors and 5-HT2C receptors mirtazapine disinhibited dopamine and norepinephrine activity in these areas in rats. In addition, mirtazapine's antagonism of 5-HT2A receptors has beneficial effects on anxiety, sleep and appetite, as well as sexual function regarding the latter receptor. Mirtazapine has been shown to lower drug seeking behaviour (more specifically to methamphetamine) in various human and animal studies. It is also being investigated in substance abuse disorders to reduce withdrawal effects and improve remission rates.
Mirtazapine significantly improves pre-existing symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome in affected individuals. Mirtazapine may be used as an inexpensive antiemetic alternative to Ondansetron. In conjunction with substance abuse counseling, mirtazapine has been investigated for the purpose of reducing methamphetamine use in dependent individuals with success. In contrast to mirtazapine, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and some tricyclic antidepressants increase the general activity of the 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C, and 5-HT3 receptors leading to a host of negative changes and side effects, the most prominent of which including anorexia, insomnia, nausea, and diarrhea, among others. Its reduced incidence of sexual dysfunction (such as loss of libido and anorgasmia) could be a product of negligible binding to the serotonin transporter (as is generally the cause of sexual dysfunction with most selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and antagonism of the 5-HT2A receptors; however, Mirtazapine's high affinity towards and inverse agonism of the 5-HT2C receptors may greatly attenuate those pro-sexual factors (as evidenced by the pro-sexual effects of drugs like m-CPP and Lorcaserin which agonize 5-HT2C receptors in a reasonably selective manner). As a result, it is often combined with these drugs to reduce their side-effect profile and to produce a stronger antidepressant effect.
Mirtazapine is a very strong H1 receptor inverse agonist and, as a result, it can cause powerful sedative and hypnotic effects. A single 15 mg dose of mirtazapine to healthy volunteers has been found to result in over 80% occupancy of the H1 receptor and to induce intense sleepiness. After a short period of chronic treatment, however, the H1 receptor tends to desensitize and the antihistamine effects become more tolerable. Many patients may also dose at night to avoid the effects, and this appears to be an effective strategy for combating them. Blockade of the H1 receptor may improve pre-existing allergies, pruritus, nausea, and insomnia in affected individuals. It may also contribute to weight gain, however. In contrast to the H1 receptor, mirtazapine has only low affinity for the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, although anticholinergic side effects like dry mouth, constipation, and mydriasis are still sometimes seen in clinical practice.
Mirtazapine was first synthesized at Organon and published in 1989, was first approved for use in major depressive disorder in the Netherlands in 1994, and was introduced in the United States in 1996 under the brand name Remeron.: 429 
Society and culture
A 15 mg tablet of generic mirtazapine.
In the Media
Therapeutic levels of mirtazapine were found in the blood of film director Tony Scott during an autopsy after his suicide in 2012.
A case report has been published in which mirtazapine reduced visual hallucinations in a patient with Parkinson's disease psychosis (PDP). This is in alignment with recent findings that inverse agonists at the 5-HT2A receptors are efficacious in attenuating the symptoms of Parkinson's disease psychosis. As is supported by the common practice of prescribing low-dose quetiapine and clozapine for PDP at doses too low to antagonize the D2 receptor, but sufficiently high doses to inversely agonize the 5-HT2A receptors.
Eight case reports have been reported in five papers on the use of mirtazapine in the treatment of hives as of 2017.
Mirtazapine also has some veterinary use in cats and dogs. Mirtazapine is sometimes prescribed as an appetite stimulant for cats or dogs experiencing loss of appetite due to medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease. It is especially useful for treating combined poor appetite and nausea in cats and dogs.
Mirtazapine is indicated for bodyweight gain in cats experiencing poor appetite and weight loss resulting from chronic medical conditions.
There are two options for administration: tablets given orally, and an ointment applied topically to the inner surface of the ear.
The most common side effects include signs of local irritation or inflammation at the site where the ointment is applied and behavioural changes (increased meowing, hyperactivity, disoriented state or inability to co-ordinate muscle movements, lack of energy/weakness, attention-seeking, and aggression).
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