Use of mirtazapine in patients with chronic breathlessness: A case series

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BACKGROUND: Breathlessness remains a common and distressing symptom in people with advanced disease with few effective treatment options. Repurposing of existing medicines has been effective in other areas of palliative care, for example, antidepressants to treat pain, and offers an opportunity to deliver improved symptom control in a timely manner. Previous case series have shown reduced breathlessness following the use of sertraline (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

CASES: Six cases where mirtazapine, a noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant, was used to treat chronic breathlessness in advanced lung disease. Case management: All cases received mirtazapine at a starting dose of 15 mg, prescribed under the care of their primary care physician. Cases had been receiving mirtazapine for a variable time period (2 weeks to 5 months) at the time of the interviews. Case outcome: All cases reported less breathlessness and being able to do more. They described feeling more in control of their breathing, and being able to recover more quickly from episodes of breathlessness. Some cases also reported beneficial effects on anxiety, panic, appetite and sleep. No adverse effects were reported.

DISCUSSION: Patients with chronic breathlessness in this case series reported benefits during mirtazapine treatment. To determine the effectiveness of mirtazapine in alleviating breathlessness and improving quality of life in chronic lung disease, blinded randomised trials are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number9
Early online date20 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2018


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