Cases That Test Your Skills

Suicidality in an older patient with chronic kidney disease

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The authors’ observations

In 2019, the American Geriatric Society (AGS) updated the Beers Criteria for potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults.4 The Beers Criteria were created to educate clinicians about the use of potentially inappropriate medications that have an unfavorable balance of benefits and risks compared to alternative treatments. The AGS lists medications that should be avoided or have their dosage reduced with varying levels of kidney function in older adults. Duloxetine is one of the medications listed with the recommendation to avoid for patients with a creatinine clearance <30 mL/min. Creatinine clearance is an estimation of GFR.

Although duloxetine is mentioned in the Beers Criteria, many other antidepressants have metabolites excreted by the kidneys.6 Potential adverse effects include increased bleeding, nausea, vomiting, and serotonin toxicity symptoms.7 Mr. J has Stage 3A CKD and takes 4 psychotropics, which will additively increase the serum concentration of serotonergic medications. In terms of treatment for serotonin toxicity, it is important to remove the causative medications. After discontinuing serotonergic medications, lorazepam can be administered as needed. If a patient continues to have symptoms, cyproheptadine is an option.

For patients with impaired renal function, adding nonpharmacologic options should be considered, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Table 24,8-18 lists the minimum effective doses for well-known medications for treating MDD.

Recommended starting dose of antidepressants for MDD

OUTCOME Improvement and discharge

Mr. J’s confusion improves, his heart rate decreases, and his feelings of panic and doom improve. He continues to have depressive symptoms, but his suicidal ideation stops. At discharge, Mr. J is receiving mirtazapine 15 mg/d, potassium chloride 10 mEq/d orally, lisinopril 20 mg/d orally at bedtime, furosemide 20 mg/d orally, and amlodipine 5 mg orally twice a day. Additionally, the treatment team recommends psychotherapy to Mr. J to address his anxiety and depression.

Bottom Line

Older patients are more sensitive to psychotropic medications, regardless of any comorbidities. It is important to review each patient’s glomerular filtration rate to better understand their renal function and adjust medications accordingly.

Related Resources

  • Whittaker P, Vordenberg SE, Coe AB. Deprescribing in older adults: an overview. Current Psychiatry. 2022;21(5):40-43. doi:10.12788/cp.0246
  • Gibson G, Kennedy LH, Barlow G. Polypharmacy in older adults. Current Psychiatry. 2020;19(4):40-46.
  • Barr R, Miskle B, Thomas C. Management of major depressive disorder with psychotic features. Current Psychiatry. 2021;20(2):30-33. doi:10.12788/cp.0092

Drug Brand Names

Amlodipine • Norvasc
Buspirone • BuSpar
Citalopram • Celexa
Cyproheptadine • Periactin
Desvenlafaxine • Pristiq
Duloxetine • Cymbalta
Escitalopram • Lexapro
Fluoxetine • Prozac
Furosemide • Lasix
Lisinopril • Zestril
Lorazepam • Ativan
Mirtazapine • Remeron
Paroxetine • Paxil
Sertraline • Zoloft
Trazodone • Desyrel
Venlafaxine • Effexor


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