A single dose of noradrenergic/serotonergic reuptake inhibitors combined with an antimuscarinic does not improve obstructive sleep apnoea severity

Luke D.J. Thomson, Shane A. Landry, Simon A. Joosten, Dwayne L Mann, Ai-Ming Wong, Tim Cheung, Mulki Adam, Caroline J Beatty, Garun S. Hamilton, Bradley A. Edwards

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Previous trials have demonstrated that the combination of noradrenergic reuptake inhibitors with an antimuscarinic can substantially reduce the apnoea-hypopnoea index (AHI) and improve airway collapsibility in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). However, some studies have shown that when administered individually, neither noradrenergic or serotonergic agents have been effective at alleviating OSA. This raises the possibility that serotonergic agents (like noradrenergic agents) may also need to be delivered in combination to be efficacious. Therefore, we investigated the effect of an antimuscarinic (oxybutynin) on OSA severity when administered with either duloxetine or milnacipran, two dual noradrenergic/serotonergic reuptake inhibiters. A randomized, double-blind, 4 way cross-over, placebo-controlled trial in ten OSA patients was performed. Patients received each drug condition separately across four overnight in-lab polysomnography (PSG) studies ~1-week apart. The primary outcome measure was the AHI. In addition, the four key OSA endotypes (collapsibility, muscle compensation, arousal threshold, loop gain) were measured non-invasively from the PSGs using validated techniques. There was no significant effect of either drug combinations on reducing the total AHI or improving any of the key OSA endotypes. However, duloxetine+oxybutynin did significantly increase the fraction of hypopnoeas to apnoeas (FHypopnoea) compared to placebo (p = 0.02; d = 0.54). In addition, duloxetine+oxybutynin reduced time in REM sleep (p = 0.009; d = 1.03) which was positively associated with a reduction in the total AHI (R2 = 0.62; p = 0.02). Neither drug combination significantly improved OSA severity or modified the key OSA endotypes when administered as a single dose to unselected OSA patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15440
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • combination therapy
  • muscarinic antagonists
  • noradrenergic
  • obstructive sleep apnoea.
  • pharmacotherapy
  • serotonergic
  • sleep disordered breathing
  • upper airway

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