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Desipramine is an antidepressant drug used to elevate mood and promote recovery of a normal range of emotions in patients with depressive disorders. In addition, desipramine has uses in a number of other psychiatric and medical conditions. In the United States, the drug is also known by its brand name, Norpramin.


Desipramine is known principally as an antidepressant drug used to promote recovery of depressed patients. It also has therapeutic uses in panic disorder, pain management, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep attacks (narcolepsy and cataplexy), binge eating (bulimia), and in cocaine craving in the treatment of addiction.


Desipramine is one of the tricyclic antidepressants, so-called because of the three-ring chemical structure common to these drugs. Until the late 1980s, desipramine and other tricyclic antidepressants, such as imipramine, formed the mainstay of the pharmacological treatment of depressive disorders.

tu Autonomic—The part of the nervous system that Q governs the heart, involuntary muscles, and glands.

Cataplexy—A symptom of narcolepsy marked by a sudden episode of muscle weakness triggered by strong emotions. The muscle weakness may cause the person's knees to buckle, or the head to drop. In severe cases, the patient may become paralyzed for a few seconds to minutes.

Epilepsy—A neurological disorder characterized by the onset of seizures. Seizures are caused by a disturbance in the electrical activity in the brain and can cause loss of consciousness, muscle spasms, rhythmic movements, abnormal sensory experiences, or altered mental states.

Glaucoma—A group of eye diseases characterized by increased pressure within the eye significant enough to damage eye tissue and structures. If untreated, glaucoma results in blindness.

Neurotransmitter—A chemical in the brain that transmits messages between neurons, or nerve cells.

The therapeutic action of antidepressants is not completely understood. It is known that these drugs boost the levels of certain messenger chemicals, called neurotransmitters, which are involved in transmitting signals between nerve cells in the brain. This action may help to restore normal emotional feelings by counteracting abnormalities of nerve signal transmission that occur in depressive disorders.

Desipramine is one of a large number of tricyclic antidepressant compounds. Each was developed for somewhat differing pharmacological effects and side-effect profiles. The effects of desipramine are very similar to those of other tricyclics, although some individual patients may find one drug of this group more effective or more tolerable than another. It is available as Norpramin in 10-, 25-, 50-, 75-, 100-, and 150-mg tablets, although generic manufacturers may supply a somewhat different set of dosages.

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