Mechanism of Action

Agomelatine is a melatonergic agonist (MT1 and MT2 receptors) and 5-HT2C antagonist. Binding studies indicate that agomelatine has no effect on monoamine uptake and no affinity for α, β adrenergic, histaminergic, cholinergic, dopaminergic and benzodiazepine receptors.

Agomelatine resynchronises circadian rhythms in animal models of circadian rhythm disruption. Agomelatine increases noradrenaline and dopamine release specifically in the frontal cortex and has no influence on the extracellular levels of serotonin.

Pharmacodynamic Properties

Pharmacodynamic effects

Agomelatine has shown an antidepressant-like effect in animal models of depression (learned helplessness test, despair test, chronic mild stress) as well as in models with circadian rhythm desynchronisation and in models related to stress and anxiety. In humans, agomelatine has positive phase shifting properties; it induces a phase advance of sleep, body temperature decline and melatonin onset.

Pharmacokinetic Properties

Absorption and bioavailability

Agomelatine is rapidly and well (≥80%) absorbed after oral administration. Absolute bioavailability is low (<5% at the therapeutic oral dose) and the interindividual variability is substantial. The bioavailability is increased in women compared to men. The bioavailability is increased by intake of oral contraceptives and reduced by smoking. The peak plasma concentration is reached within 1 to 2 hours.

In the therapeutic dose-range, agomelatine systemic exposure increases proportionally with dose. At higher doses, a saturation of the first-pass effect occurs.

Food intake (standard meal or high fat meal) does not modify the bioavailability or the absorption rate.

The variability is increased with high fat food.


Steady state volume of distribution is about 35 l and plasma protein binding is 95% irrespective of the concentration and is not modified with age and in patients with renal impairment but the free fraction is doubled in patients with hepatic impairment.


Following oral administration, agomelatine is rapidly metabolised mainly via hepatic CYP1A2; CYP2C9 and CYP2C19 isoenzymes are also involved but with a low contribution. The major metabolites, hydroxylated and demethylated agomelatine, are not active and are rapidly conjugated and eliminated in the urine.


Elimination is rapid, the mean plasma half-life is between 1 and 2 hours and the clearance is high (about 1,100 ml/min) and essentially metabolic. Excretion is mainly (80%) urinary and in the form of metabolites, whereas unchanged compound recovery in urine is negligible. Kinetics are not modified after repeated administration.

Renal impairment

No relevant modification of pharmacokinetic parameters in patients with severe renal impairment has been observed (n=8, single dose of 25 mg), but caution should be exercised in patients with severe or moderate renal impairment as only limited clinical data are available in these patients.

Hepatic impairment

In a specific study involving cirrhotic patients with chronic mild (Child-Pugh type A) or moderate (Child-Pugh type B) liver impairment, exposure to agomelatine 25 mg was substantially increased (70-times and 140-times, respectively), compared to matched volunteers (age, weight and smoking habit) with no liver failure.


In a pharmacokinetic study in elderly patients (≥65 years), it was showed that at a dose of 25 mg the mean AUC and mean Cmax were about 4-fold and 13-fold higher for patients ≥75 years old compared to patients <75 years old. The total number of patients receiving 50 mg was too low to draw any conclusions. No dose adaptation is required in elderly patients.

Ethnic groups

There is no data on the influence of race on agomelatine pharmacokinetics.

Preclinical Safety Data

In mice, rats and monkeys sedative effects were observed after single and repeated administration at high doses.

In rodents, a marked induction of CYP2B and a moderate induction of CYP1A and CYP3A were seen from 125 mg/kg/day whereas in monkeys the induction was slight for CYP2B and CYP3A at 375 mg/kg/day. No hepatotoxicity was observed in rodents and monkeys in the repeat dose toxicity studies.

Agomelatine passes into the placenta and foetuses of pregnant rats. Reproduction studies in the rat and the rabbit showed no effect of agomelatine on fertility, embryofoetal development and pre- and post natal development. A battery of in vitro and in vivo standard genotoxicity assays concludes to no mutagenic or clastogenic potential of agomelatine.

In carcinogenicity studies agomelatine induced an increase in the incidence of liver tumours in the rat and the mouse, at a dose at least 110-fold higher than the therapeutic dose. Liver tumours are most likely related to enzyme induction specific to rodents. The frequency of benign mammary fibroadenomas observed in the rat was increased with high exposures (60-fold the exposure at the therapeutic dose) but remains in the range of that of controls.

Safety pharmacology studies showed no effect of agomelatine on hERG (human Ether à-go-go Related Gene) current or on dog Purkinje cells action potential. Agomelatine did not show proconvulsive properties at ip doses up to 128 mg/kg in mice and rats.

No effect of agomelatine on juvenile animals behavioural performances, visual and reproductive function were observed. There were mild non dose dependent decreases in body weight related to the pharmacological properties and some minor effects on male reproductive tract without any impairment on reproductive performances.

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