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Chlorimipramine chemical structure

IUPAC name
CAS number
ATC code


Chemical formula C9H23ClN2
Molecular weight 314.9
Bioavailability Oral ~50%
Metabolism Hepatic
Elimination half-life Clomipramine ~35 hours
Desmethylclomipramine (main active metabolite) ~50 hours
Excretion Renal
Pregnancy category Unknown.
May cause withdrawl symptoms in newborn.
Legal status Rx Only, not scheduled
Routes of administration Oral, I.M., I.V.

Clorimipramine or Clomipramine (brand-name Anafranil®) is a tricyclic antidepressant.


  • Depression with lack of energy or mild agitation
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
  • Panic attacks with or without Agoraphobia
  • Narcolepsy
  • chronic pain with or without organic disease, particular headache of the tension type
  • Enuresis (involuntary nightly urinating in sleep) in children / adolescents
  • Off label, sometimes antidepressants of this type have been found helpful in reducing relapses in cocaine addicts and to help repair cocaine-caused neurotransmitter imbalances and early brain damage. Further studies are needed for Clomipramine in this regard.

It may take 2 to 3 weeks before the full effects of this medication are noticed in all indications.


  • Concomitant therapy with an (irreversible) MAO-Inhibitor (e.g. Tranylcypromin, Phenelzin)
  • Acute intoxication with central depressants (alcohol, psychoactive drugs, narcotics)
  • States of confusion (caution), absolutely contraindicated in patients with coma and Delirium tremens
  • Patients with massive agitation or anxiety (give sedative drugs concomittantly)
  • Hypersensitivity/Allergy against Clomipramine or other related tricyclic compounds
  • Hypertrophy of the Prostate with urine retention (=difficulty in urinating)
  • Caution : Hypertrophy of the Prostate without urine retention
  • Preexisting closed angle glaucoma
  • Epilepsy and other conditions which lower the seizure-threshold (alcohol-withdrawal, active brain tumors)
  • Serious liver disease (elimination is decreased), if Clomipramine is given consider dose reduction
  • Serious kidney disease (elimination is decresed), if Clomipramine is given consider dose reduction
  • Severe hypotension, shock, serious cardiovascular dysfunction (postinfarctous states, heart insufficience, arrhythmias), avoid high oral doses or injections/infusions
  • Preexisting bone marrow depression (leukopenia, thrombopenia, anemia, pancytopenia), can be worsened by Clomipramine
  • Overfunction of the thyreoid gland makes the patient more sensitive to side-effects of Clomipramine. Cautious doses should be used and the overfunction should be treated.
  • Caution should be exerted when treating pediatric patients under 18 yrs. of age


Clomipramine is the 3-chloro derivative of Imipramine. Clomipramine is a strong, but not completely selective Serotonic-Reuptake-Inhibitor (SRI), as the active main metabolite Desmethyclomipramine acts preferably as inhibitor of Noradrenaline-Reuptake. Other hydroxy-metabolites are also active. Alpha-1-Receptor blockage and beta-down-regulation as well as postsynaptic antagonism on H1 (histaminergic)-receptors have been noted. A blockade of Sodium-channels and NDMA-receptors might, as with other tricyclics, account for its effect in chronic pain, particular of the neuropathic type.

Clomipramine might as well show stimulating effects as well as mild sedating ones. Anyway, strongly agitated patients initially need combination therapy with a benzodiazepine or with Chlorprothixene. Clomipramine shows excellent activity in any indication, but has the disadvantage of a higher incidence of seizures than seen with other tricyclic antidepressants (up to a dose of 250mg daily in 0,5%, more than 300 mg in 2%).

Due to its action against anxiety disorders and panic attacks it is the only drug with 2 entries in the 'Essential Drugs' list of the WHO.

Regarding compulsive disorders it is now the 'gold standard' of therapy, against which other drugs are measured.

Interesting results indicate that the antidepressant activity correlates with the plasma-level of the main active metabolite Desmethylclomipramine, while antidepressant activity merely correlates with the plasma-level of Clomipramine in unchanged form.

Veterinary uses

Clomipramine is widely used for the treatment of disturbed behaviour of dogs, cats, and horses.


Clomipramine was developed in the 1960's by the Swiss drug manufacturer Geigy and has been in clinical use worldwide for decades.

Side Effects

Clomipramine is not harmless and may have a broad range of side-effects:

  • Central Nervous System: Often, fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, confusion, agitation, insomnia, nightmares, increased anxiety, seizures (0,5% to 2%, see above), rarely hypomania or induction of schizophrenia (immediate termination of therapy required), and extrapyramidal side-effects (pseudoparkinsonism, dyskinesia, rarely tardive dyskinesia) are noted.
  • Anticholinergic side-effects in different grades of severity are quite common: dry mouth, constipation, rarely ileus (paralysis of the large intestine, life-threatening), difficulties in urinating, sweating, precipation of glaucoma (may lead to permanent eye-damage or even blindness, if untreated). The incidence of dental caries may be increased due to dry mouth. Careful mouth hygiene should be instituted. Visit your dentist regularly for professional prophylaxis.
  • Antiadrenergic side-effects occur very frequently due to strong central and peripheral blockage of alpha-receptors: hypotension, postural collapse (when patient is rising too fast from lying or sitting position to standing), arrhythmias (sinus-tachycardia, bradycardia, av-block, rarely other forms of cardiac problems). Preexisting heart insufficience can be worsened.

Most of these side-effects are dose related and/or tolerance will develop with continued use.

  • Allergic/toxic: skin reactions and photosensitivity with increased frequency of sunburns are seen in a few percentage of cases. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Wear a sunscreen and protective clothing. Rarely liver damage of the cholostatic type, hepatitis, and leukopenia or other forms of blood dyskrasia are seen, also severe acute allergy including difficulties in breathing, skin reaction, chest pain etc. Call a doctor immediately.
  • Other side effects may include heartburn, weight gain, but also nausea and bruxism - teeth-grinding while asleep - (the latter due to the stong inhibition of reuptake of serotonin).
  • The drug often causes sexual problems in men (e.g. impotence, ejaculation difficulties). In about 5% of patients, it can instead cause inadvertent orgasms when yawning.

Drug Abuse and Dependence

Clomipramine has no known potential for abuse and dependence. It is not a controlled substance.

Withdrawal symptoms occurring when Clomipramine is stopped abruptly (agitation, fatigue, nausea, headaches, insomnia, sometimes activation of mania and rebound of depression or anxiety) is not indicative of dependence and can be avoided, if Clomipramine is gradually withdrawn by reducing the daily dose by approximately 25% weekly. If medical reasons dictate an immediate termination of treatment, a short-term course of benzodiazepines (up to 4 weeks as needed) will usually suppress the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Suicidal Patients

Depression itself can lead to thoughts or attempts of suicide. Tell your doctor immediately if you have any suicidal thoughts, or other mental/mood changes. Keep all medical appointments so your doctor can monitor your progress closely. Emotionally unstable patients or those with suicidal thoughts shought receive the smallest amount of the drug feasible. Often cotreatment with a sedative drug (e.g. a benzodiazepine or chlorprothixene) is necessary until remission of depression is evident.

Other Reasons for Caution

Caution is advised when using this drug in the elderly, because they may be more sensitive to the effects of the drug (e.g., confusion may occur or worsen).

This drug should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.

This drug is excreted into breast milk. The effects on the infant are not known at this time. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.

Drug Interactions

Clomipramine shows a number of clinical significant interactions, either due to central depressant or stimulant activity of the other drug or due to interference of the other drug with the metabolization and elimination of Clomipramine or vice versa. Some examples are:

  • MAO inhibitors (e.g., furazolidone, linezolid, phenelzine, selegiline, tranylcypromine) : Severe reactions including central excitation, hypertensive crises, bizarre behaviour, psychosis, seizures, coma and death are possible.
  • Central Stimulants : Potentially dangerous central excitation with agitation and anxiety may be encountered.
  • SSRI type antidepressants (eg. Fluoxetine) : Side effects of Clomipramine are increased.
  • Drugs with central depressant activity (tranquilizers, alcohol, narcotics) : Increased central depression (dizziness, drowsiness etc.) is frequently noted.
  • antihypertenive drugs : The risk of hypotension, collapse, and tachycardia is increased.

Do not start or stop any drug (also OTC-medications against cold, sleeping aids with Diphenhydramine or Doxylamine, St. John's Wort etc.) without your physician's approval.

Dosage and Proper Usage

Start with small doses (2 or 3 times 25mg daily or 75mg in slow released form, as directed by your doctor). The dose is increased in regular intervals by your prescribing physician (the usual dose per day is 100-225mg). Doses up to 300mg may be used, but these are associated with an increased risk of seizures. This medication may be taken with food to prevent stomach upset.

In hospitalized patients initial i.m.-injections and very slow i.v.-infusions can be used, but the risk of hypotension and seizures may be increased with parental drug use. The advantage is that the onset of action may be faster.

Usually, Clomipramine needs some weeks to reach its maximum effects and needs to be given as longterm treatment, sometimes for life (narcolepsy). Sometimes, in patients with narcolepsy the full effect of Clomipramine is not sufficient. In these cases terminate treatment with Clomipramine gradually and try a commonly used central stimulant (e.g. Modafinil, Methylphenidate, Methamphetamine).

It should be noted that Clomipramine is not able to increase the mood of non-depressive persons and that any unindicated use may be dangerous.


If overdose is suspected, contact your local poison control center or emergency room immediately. US residents can call the US national poison hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Canadian residents should call their local poison control center directly.

Ten out of 12 patients presenting with manifest clomipramine overdose survived with appropriate treatment. These 10 patients took clomipramine doses of up to 5 grams. The 2 patients who died ingested 5.75 and 7 grams, respectively. Outside the US one patient died who took only 0.75 grams. Lethal doses may be lower, if other drugs have been taken in an overdose, too, particular central nervous depressants.

Symptoms of overdose may include flushing, fast or irregular heartbeat, dry mouth, drowsiness, confusion, agitation, enlarged pupils, seizures, and loss of consciousness. Therapy is largely symptomatic. Inducing emesis, gastric lavage, and giving activated charcoal can all be tried when an oral overdose is detected early. If anticholiergic side-effects (dry mouth, obstipation, urine retention) dominate the poisoning, Physostigmine can be given repeatedly in small doses, but Physostigmine may increase the risk of seizures. Seizures can be treated with slow i.v.-injections of Diazepam (5 to 10mg) until they subside. Barbiturates should be avoided, as they can deepening respiratory depression and may lead to postictal coma. Lidocain can be used to treat cardiac arrhythmias. Correction of water and electrolyt-bilance and artificial breathing may be nesessary. Continued monitoring of vital functions in an intensive care unit is also necessary.


  • Anafranil® registered TM of Novartis, sold worldwide
  • generics

Antidepressants (ATC N06A) edit
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) Harmaline, Iproclozide, Iproniazid, Isocarboxazid, Nialamide, Phenelzine, Selegiline, Toloxatone, Tranylcypromine
Reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase A (RIMA) Brofaromine, Moclobemide
Dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DARI) Amineptine, Phenmetrazine, Vanoxerine, Modafinil
Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors Bupropion
Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NRI) or (NARI) Atomoxetine, Maprotiline, Reboxetine, Viloxazine
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) Duloxetine, Milnacipran, Venlafaxine
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) Alaproclate, Etoperidone, Citalopram, Escitalopram, Fluoxetine, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, Sertraline, Zimelidine
Selective serotonin reuptake enhancer (SSRE) Tianeptine
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) Amitriptyline, Amoxapine, Butriptyline, Clomipramine, Desipramine, Dibenzepin, Dothiepin, Doxepin, Imipramine, Iprindole, Lofepramine, Melitracen, Nortriptyline, Opipramol, Protriptyline, Trimipramine
Tetracyclic antidepressants Maprotiline, Mianserin, Nefazodone, Trazodone
Noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant (NaSSA) Mirtazapine
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