Deakin University

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The prescriber's guide to classic MAO-inhibitors (phenelzine, tranylcypromine, isocarboxazid) for treatment-resistant depression

Version 2 2024-06-15, 19:43
Version 1 2023-03-06, 05:20
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-15, 19:43 authored by V Van Den Eynde, WR Abdelmoemin, MM Abraham, JD Amsterdam, IM Anderson, C Andrade, GB Baker, ATF Beekman, Michael BerkMichael Berk, TK Birkenhäger, BB Blackwell, P Blier, MBJ Blom, JA Bodkin, CI Cattaneo, B Dantz, J Davidson, BW Dunlop, RF Estévez, SS Feinberg, JPM Finberg, LJ Fochtmann, D Gotlib, A Holt, TR Insel, JK Larsen, R Mago, DB Menkes, JM Meyer, DJ Nutt, G Parker, MD Rego, E Richelson, HG Ruhé, J Sáiz-Ruiz, SM Stahl, T Steele, ME Thase, S Ulrich, AJLM Van Balkom, E Vieta, I Whyte, AH Young, PK Gillman
Abstract This article is a clinical guide which discusses the “state-of-the-art” usage of the classic monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) antidepressants (phenelzine, tranylcypromine, and isocarboxazid) in modern psychiatric practice. The guide is for all clinicians, including those who may not be experienced MAOI prescribers. It discusses indications, drug-drug interactions, side-effect management, and the safety of various augmentation strategies. There is a clear and broad consensus (more than 70 international expert endorsers), based on 6 decades of experience, for the recommendations herein exposited. They are based on empirical evidence and expert opinion—this guide is presented as a new specialist-consensus standard. The guide provides practical clinical advice, and is the basis for the rational use of these drugs, particularly because it improves and updates knowledge, and corrects the various misconceptions that have hitherto been prominent in the literature, partly due to insufficient knowledge of pharmacology. The guide suggests that MAOIs should always be considered in cases of treatment-resistant depression (including those melancholic in nature), and prior to electroconvulsive therapy—while taking into account of patient preference. In selected cases, they may be considered earlier in the treatment algorithm than has previously been customary, and should not be regarded as drugs of last resort; they may prove decisively effective when many other treatments have failed. The guide clarifies key points on the concomitant use of incorrectly proscribed drugs such as methylphenidate and some tricyclic antidepressants. It also illustrates the straightforward “bridging” methods that may be used to transition simply and safely from other antidepressants to MAOIs.



CNS Spectrums






Cambridge, Eng.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal




Cambridge University Press (CUP)