Effects of fluoxetine, phentermine, and venlafaxine on pulmonary arterial pressure and electrophysiology

Helen L. Reeve, Daniel P. Nelson, Stephen L. Archer, E. Kenneth Weir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The anorexic agents dexfenfluramine and fenfluramine plus phentermine have been associated with outbreaks of pulmonary hypertension. The fenfluramines release serotonin and reduce serotonin reuptake in neurons. They also inhibit potassium current (I(K)), causing membrane potential depolarization in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells. The recent withdrawal of the fenfluramines has led to the use of fluoxetine and phentermine as an alternative anorexic combination. Because fluoxetin and venlafaxine reduce serotonin reuptake, we compared the effects of these agents with those of phentermine and dexfenfluramine on pulmonary arterial pressure, I(K), and membrane potential. Fluoxetine, venlafaxine, and phentermine caused minimal increases in pulmonary arterial pressure at concentrations < 100 μM but did cause a dose-dependent inhibition of I(K). The order of potency for inhibition of I(K) at +50 mV was fluoxetine > dexfenfluramine = venlafaxine > phentermine. Despite the inhibitory effect on I(K) at more positive membrane potentials, fluoxetin, venlafaxine, and phentermine, in contrast to dexfenfluramine, had minimal effects on the cell resting membrane potential (all at a concentration of 100 μM). However, application of 100 μM fluoxetin to cells that had been depolarized to -30 mV by current injection elicited a further depolarization of >18 mV. These results suggest that fluoxetin, venlafaxine, and phentermine do not inhibit I(K) at the resting membrane potential. Consequently, they may present less risk of inducing pulmonary hypertension than the fenfluramines, at least by mechanisms involving membrane depolarization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L213-L219
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number2 20-2
StatePublished - Feb 1999


  • Anorexic
  • Membrane potential
  • Potassium channels
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Serotonin


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