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What Is Tianeptine?

By Andy Josiah
Updated May 17, 2024
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Tianeptine, also known as Stablon, Coaxil or Tatinol, is a prescription medication used to treat depression in all its ranges of severity. First synthesized in 1981, the drug is manufactured and marketed by French pharmaceutical company Servier. Tianeptine is primarily sold in countries across Europe, Asia and Latin America. The drug, however, is not sold in countries like the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to grant it approval.

The tianeptine medication is generally described as a tricyclic antidepressant. This is a chemical compound so named because it contains three rings of atoms. Like other tricyclic antidepressants, tianeptine blocks the reuptake, or re-absorption, of serotonin. This is a neurotransmitter responsible for one’s sense of well-being. The reuptake consequently increases the availability of such substances to the brain.

For this reason, tianeptine is sometimes referred to as a selective serotonin reuptake enhancer, or SSRE. It acts in the opposite fashion of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. While SSRIs are also antidepressants, they suppress rather than enhance serotonin reuptake. Despite these labels, the medical community still cannot ascertain how exactly the drug works, as some researchers have questioned the SSRE theory.

Regardless of the lack of a firmly established reason for its effects, tianeptine—ever since its initial synthesis by a pair of French researchers named Antoine Deslandes and Michael Spedding—has mainly been used to treat clinical depression. Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or unipolar disorder, clinical depression refers to cases in which people lose a significant measure of self-esteem as well as interest in their regular daily activities. Tianeptine is also used as an anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety drug, applied to a wide range of anxiety disorders obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety and even eating disorders such as bulimia. Some researchers theorize that the possibly neuro-centric effects of the medication might lead to production of medications for neurodegenerative diseases or conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral aging and multiple sclerosis.

Regardless of the aforementioned possibility, tianeptine is yet to be fully understood as a medication, particularly outside its country of origin. Most of tianeptine’s early literature was exclusively published in French, thus limiting the spread of knowledge of the drug to the English-speaking world, particularly the U.K. and the U.S. Even its developer, Servier, seems to have shifted its attention from tianeptine to the creation of the anti-depressant agomelatine, whose brand name is Valdoxan. Unlike its predecessor, Valdoxan has comprehensive patent protection, a status it obtained by the end of 2009.

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