Drugs that interfere with the uptake and/or metabolism of biogenic amines have been used to treat depression for > 4 decades. Early medications such as tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors are effective but possess many side effects that limit their usefulness. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the results of rational design to find drugs that are as effective as the tricyclic antidepressants, but with more selectivity towards a single monoamine transporter. The SSRI class of drugs, which includes fluoxetine, paroxetine and sertraline, were previously viewed as the agents of choice for treating major depression. Recently, inhibitors of both serotonin and noradrenaline uptake ('dual uptake inhibitors'; SSRI/SNRI such as venlafaxine, duloxetine and milnacipran) have gained acceptance in the market. However, neither the SSRIs nor the SSRI/SNRI are fully satisfactory due to a delayed onset of action, low rate of response and side effect that can affect compliance. An important recent development has been the emergence of the triple uptake inhibitors (SSRI/SNRI/selective dopamine reuptake inhibitor), which inhibit the uptake of all three neurotransmitters that are most closely linked to depression: serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. Preclinical studies and clinical trials indicate that a drug inhibiting the uptake of all three of these neurotransmitters could produce a more rapid onset of action and possess greater efficacy than traditional antidepressants. This review discusses the evolution of biogenic amine-based therapies, the emerging strategies involved in the design and synthesis of novel triple uptake inhibitors as antidepressants and the therapeutic potential of triple uptake inhibitors.
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