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Classification: A

Drug products: Oralin, Sertralin 2care4, Sertralin Actavis, Sertralin Amendia, Sertralin Bluefish, Sertralin Ebb, Sertralin Hexal, Sertralin Krka, Sertralin Mylan, Sertralin Orion, Sertralin ratiopharm, Sertralin Sandoz, Sertralin STADA, Sertralin Teva, Sertralin Zentiva, Sertraline Accord, Sertraline SUN, Sertramyl, Sertrone, Setaloft, Zoloft, Zoloft®

ATC code: N06AB06

Substances: sertraline, sertraline hydrochloride


Studies regarding differences in effect of sertraline in men and women are not conclusive. Some studies have shown women to have a better effect on depression and anxiety disorders while other studies have not shown any sex difference in effect. On the other hand, men showed a better treatment effect of sertraline in post-traumatic stress syndrome and type A alcohol dependence.

Additional information

Depression is almost twice as common in women as in men [1]. Women have an earlier age of onset and increased duration of depressive episodes. Differences in neurobiology [2, 3], hormones, inflammatory markers, diagnostic tools, or health seeking behavior [4, 5] may be of importance.  Although depression is more prevalent in women, most preclinical studies on depression have used  male animals [2].

Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder [1]. Sex differences in symptomatology and comorbidity  may be due to genetic, hormonal, neurodevelopmental, environmental, and neurobiological factors [6].

Pharmacokinetics and dosing

In a study in healthy volunteers (22 men, 22 women), sertraline was titrated from 50 mg daily during 9 days to 200 mg daily for 21 days. The terminal elimination half-life was shorter in young men (18–45 years), (22.4 hours) than in young women, older men, and older women (32.1–36.7 hours). The Cmax, AUC24 and mean trough concentrations of sertraline were 21%, 25% and 33% lower in young men compared to the other groups. For the metabolite N-desmethylsertraline (DSERT) the trough plasma concentrations, Cmax and AUC24 were also lower in young men compared with the other groups [7].

This is in contrast to another study (31 men, 61 women), where the dose-concentration correlation for sertraline and DSERT was approximately 30% higher for women than for men after 12 weeks of treatment (50–150 mg daily). No sex differences in the absolute concentrations for sertraline or DSERT were observed [8]. In a bioavailability study, 100 mg sertraline was given to 24 healthy volunteers (13 men, 11 women). Women had higher Cmax values than men, but the sex difference disappeared when taking the distribution volume into consideration [9]. Differentiation of dosing regimen by patient’s sex is not recommended by the manufacturer [10].



Studies analyzing sex differences in sertraline response report contradictory results. Some studies show better effect of sertraline in women than in men [11-13], while other studies show no sex difference [14-16]. The majority of the studies have assessed symptoms according to the HAM-D scale but other scales, such as HAM-A, CGI, and PHQ-9, have also been used.

Treatment response of sertraline has been examined in patients with chronic depression in a 12-week RCT (162 men, 264 women). Women responded better to sertraline treatment than men and premenopausal women responded better than postmenopausal women, suggesting that female sex hormones may enhance treatment response [11]. Also, in another study (59 men, 242 women), menopause was shown to be related to worse treatment response of SSRI in depression compared to non-menopausal women, although no overall sex differences in SSRI treatment response were shown [16]. In contrast, one study showed that acute worsening of chronic depression was more frequent in premenopausal women than in postmenopausal women, and men treated with either sertraline or imipramine (229 men, 267 premenopausal women, 58 postmenopausal women) (8.6%, 4.5% and 5.9%, respectively) [12]. A retrospective cohort analysis of Japanese patients with major depressive disorders treated with sertraline (36 men, 46 women) showed that women were more likely to respond to sertraline treatment than men (74% vs. 44%) [13].

For the treatment of non-melancholic depressive disorder, no sex differences in response to sertraline have been reported, although women responded better to sertraline than imipramine (50 men, 184 women) [14]. No sex differences in sertraline response for treatment of depression were observed in a large German study (1594 men, 3858 women) throughout a 6-month period [15]. According to the original manufacturer of sertraline, no differences between men and women has been recorded in the treatment response of major depressive disorders [10, 17].

Anxiety disorders

Pooled data from four studies (in total 335 men, 338 women), showed a greater improvement of sertraline on panic frequency and Clinical Global Impression-Improvement scale (CGI-I) in women [18]. However, according to the original manufacturer of sertraline, no differences between men and women have been recorded in the treatment response of panic disorders or social anxiety disorders [17]. Efficacy of sertraline in patients with generalized anxiety disorder was similar in men and women in a 12-week RCT trial (167 men, 203 women) [19].

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Two RCT trials evaluating the efficacy of sertraline in treatment of PTSD were conducted by the original manufacturer. Post hoc analyses (94 men, 291 women) showed that sertraline-treated women had significant improvements in all efficacy measures compared to placebo-treated women. No significant differences in efficacy measures were shown for  men. Since the two studies included a low number of men (24%), there is insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about the effect in men [17, 20].

However, pooled data from two studies on PTSD in the general population (184 men, 430 women) found similar response rates in men and women compared to placebo (women 57.2% vs 34.%, men: 53.9% vs 38.2%). Risk factors correlated with decreased effect (such as more substance abuse, longer duration of PTSD, and source of trauma) were more common among men [10].

Alcohol dependence

In a 14-week RCT (52 men, 48 women) men, but not women, with type A alcohol dependence showed an improvement with sertraline treatment [21]. In Sweden, sertraline is not indicated for treatment of alcohol dependence.

Adverse effects

No sex differences in adverse events have been found in pooled data from four RCTs in panic disorder (in total 335 men, 338 women) [18] or in a large observational study (1594 men, 3858 women) [15].

In a study where treatment response after 12 weeks of sertraline treatment was examined in patients with chronic depression (162 men, 264 women), there were no sex difference in overall frequency of adverse events or severe adverse events. However, statistically significant sex differences for some types of adverse events with >10% frequency were shown; women were more likely to report nausea and dizziness, whereas men were more likely to report dyspepsia, sexual dysfunction and urinary frequency [11].

Reproductive health issues

Plasma concentrations of sertraline varies during pregnancy. Furthermore, plasma sertraline concentrations can vary between individuals, probably due to genetic differences in drug metabolic capacity. Therefore, therapeutic drug monitoring of sertraline concentrations during pregnancy and postpartum is recommended [22]. Regarding teratogenic aspects, please consult Janusmed Drugs and Birth Defects (in Swedish, Janusmed fosterpåverkan).

Other information

Drug utilization of ten commonly prescribed antidepressants during the period 2009-2014 in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Spain were analyzed in a large register study (in total 4 833 774 initiators included). Women comprised the majority of initiators for all antidepressants studied. In Sweden, 63.6% of the initiators on sertraline were women [23].  

Updated: 2022-06-13

Date of litterature search: 2021-04-20


  1. Nationella riktlinjer för vård vid depression och ångestsyndrom 2021. Socialstyrelsen [www]. Socialstyrelsen. [updated 2021-04-01, cited 2021-05-14]. länk
  2. LeGates TA, Kvarta MD, Thompson SM. Sex differences in antidepressant efficacy. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019;44(1):140-154. PubMed
  3. Sramek JJ, Murphy MF, Cutler NR. Sex differences in the psychopharmacological treatment of depression. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2016;18(4):447-457. PubMed
  4. Kerber CS, Dyck MJ, Culp KR, Buckwalter K. Antidepressant treatment of depression in rural nursing home residents. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2008;29(9):959-73. PubMed
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  6. Jalnapurkar I, Allen M, Pigott T. Sex Differences in Anxiety Disorders: A Review. J Psychiatr Depress Anxiety. 2018;4(1):2-9.
  7. Ronfeld RA, Tremaine LM, Wilner KD. Pharmacokinetics of sertraline and its N-demethyl metabolite in elderly and young male and female volunteers. Clin Pharmacokinet. 1997;32 Suppl 1:22-30. PubMed
  8. Reis M, Aberg-Wistedt A, Agren H, Höglund P, Akerblad AC, Bengtsson F. Serum disposition of sertraline, N-desmethylsertraline and paroxetine: a pharmacokinetic evaluation of repeated drug concentration measurements during 6 months of treatment for major depression. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004;19:283-91. PubMed
  9. Almeida S, Portolés A, Terleira A, Filipe A, Cea E, Caturla MC. Comparative bioavailability/ bioequivalence of two different sertraline formulations: a randomised, 2-period x 2-sequence, crossover clinical trial in healthy volunteers. Drug Res. 2005;55:191-7. PubMed
  10. Zoloft (sertralin). Summary of Product Characteristics. Swedish Medical Products Agency [www]. [updated 2021-04-01, cited 2021-04-28]. länk
  11. Kornstein SG, Schatzberg AF, Thase ME, Yonkers KA, McCullough JP, Keitner GI et al. Gender differences in treatment response to sertraline versus imipramine in chronic depression. Am J Psychiatry. 2000;157:1445-52. PubMed
  12. Harvey AT, Silkey BS, Kornstein SG, Clary CM. Acute worsening of chronic depression during a double-blind, randomized clinical trial of antidepressant efficacy: differences by sex and menopausal status. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;68:951-8. PubMed
  13. Morishita S, Kinoshita T. Predictors of response to sertraline in patients with major depression. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2008;23:647-51. PubMed
  14. Baca E, Garcia-Garcia M, Porras-Chavarino A. Gender differences in treatment response to sertraline versus imipramine in patients with nonmelancholic depressive disorders. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2004;28:57-65. PubMed
  15. Thiels C, Linden M, Grieger F, Leonard J. Gender differences in routine treatment of depressed outpatients with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2005;20:1-7. PubMed
  16. Pinto-Meza A, Usall J, Serrano-Blanco A, Suárez D, Haro JM. Gender differences in response to antidepressant treatment prescribed in primary care Does menopause make a difference?. J Affect Disord. 2006;93:53-60. PubMed
  17. Zoloft (sertraline). DailyMed [www]. US National Library of Medicine. [updated 2021-04-01, cited 2021-04-28]. länk
  18. Clayton AH, Stewart RS, Fayyad R, Clary CM. Sex differences in clinical presentation and response in panic disorder: pooled data from sertraline treatment studies. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2006;9:151-7. PubMed
  19. Steiner M, Allgulander C, Ravindran A, Kosar H, Burt T, Austin C. Gender differences in clinical presentation and response to sertraline treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2005;20(1):3-13. länk
  20. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Review and Evaluation of Clinical Data - ZOLOFT (sertraline). Drugs@FDA [www]. [updated 1999-12-17, cited 2021-04-28]. länk
  21. Pettinati HM, Dundon W, Lipkin C. Gender differences in response to sertraline pharmacotherapy in Type A alcohol dependence. Am J Addict. 2004;13:236-47. PubMed
  22. Heinonen E, Blennow M, Blomdahl-Wetterholm M, Hovstadius M, Nasiell J, Pohanka A et al. Sertraline concentrations in pregnant women are steady and the drug transfer to their infants is low. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2021;77(9):1323-1331. PubMed
  23. Forns J, Pottegård A, Reinders T, Poblador-Plou B, Morros R, Brandt L et al. Antidepressant use in Denmark, Germany, Spain, and Sweden between 2009 and 2014: Incidence and comorbidities of antidepressant initiators. J Affect Disord. 2019;249:242-252. PubMed
  24. Statistikdatabas för läkemedel. Stockholm: Socialstyrelsen. 2020 [cited 2021-03-10.] länk

Authors: Linnéa Karlsson Lind

Reviewed by: Carl-Olav Stiller, Pauline Raaschou

Approved by: Karin Schenck-Gustafsson