Unjustified prescribing of CYP2D6 inhibiting SSRIs in women treated with tamoxifen

Lisette Binkhorst*, RHJ Mathijssen, MPP van Herk-Sukel, M Bannink, Agnes Jager, Erik Wiemer, Teun Gelder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Tamoxifen is a largely inactive pro-drug, requiring metabolism into its most important metabolite endoxifen. Since the cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2D6 enzyme is primarily involved in this metabolism, genetic polymorphisms of this enzyme, but also drug-induced CYP2D6 inhibition can result in considerably reduced endoxifen formation and as a consequence may affect the efficacy of tamoxifen treatment. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) have been effectively used for the treatment of depression and hot flashes, both of which occur frequently in tamoxifen-treated women. Due to the drug-drug interaction considerably reduced endoxifen concentrations by inhibition of CYP2D6 will be the result. Evidence of a significant influence of strong CYP2D6-inhibiting drugs on the pharmacokinetics of tamoxifen has resulted in recommendations to avoid potent CYP2D6-inhibiting antidepressants (e.g., paroxetine, fluoxetine) in patients treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer. Nevertheless, dispensing data for tamoxifen and seven regularly used SSRIs/SNRIs in the period between 2005 and 2010, obtained from a large community pharmacy database in the Netherlands (3,000,000 people), show that the potent CYP2D6-inhibiting drug paroxetine remains one of the most frequently used antidepressants in tamoxifen-treated patients. Moreover, trends in the use of SSRIs/SNRIs in the population of all women were similar with trends in women using tamoxifen. Apparently, the recommendations to avoid paroxetine in tamoxifen-treated women have not been implemented into clinical practice. Several reasons may underlie continued use of this drug-drug combination. Contrary to CYP2D6 polymorphisms, drug-induced CYP2D6 inhibition can easily be avoided, since alternative drugs are available. In clinical practice, one should strive to avoid potent CYP2D6 inhibitors as much as possible in tamoxifen-treated patients to reduce the risk of compromising the efficacy of the hormonal therapy. Co-medication should be reviewed by both physicians and pharmacists and potent CYP2D6 inhibitors ought to be switched to weaker alternatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-929
Number of pages7
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2013

Research programs

  • EMC MM-03-86-01
  • EMC MM-03-86-08
  • EMC MM-04-39-05
  • EMC ONWAR-01-58-02
  • EMC OR-01-34-01


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