Major depressive disorder (MDD) poses a significant health problem and is estimated to be the third most costly and disabling disorder in the United States. Pharmacotherapy of depression has been successful, but improvements in response rates, remission rates, side effects, compliance and faster onset of therapeutic action have become prime objectives in drug development. There is considerable support for the hypothesis that dysfunctional serotonergic or noradrenergic neurotransmission may be etiological in depressed patients. Duloxetine is a balanced and potent reuptake inhibitor of serotonin (5-HT) and norepinephrine (NE) being studied as an antidepressant medication. In this review, we highlight the preclinical pharmacology, pharmacokinetic profile, and effects of duloxetine in the pharmacotherapy of depression. Evidence for 5-HT and NE reuptake inhibition by duloxetine comes from in vitro and in vivo transporter binding and functional uptake studies. Taken together with efficacy data from in vivo microdialysis, electrophysiological and behavioral studies, it is evident that duloxetine is balanced as a dual serotonin norepinephrine uptake inhibitor in vivo. The clinical efficacy and safety of duloxetine in the treatment of MDD has been studied in 6 multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. In these studies, duloxetine was found to be effective in the treatment of emotional/psychological and painful physical symptoms associated with depression. More importantly, duloxetine appears to have better response rates and remission from depressive symptoms, perhaps due to its ability to treat a wider range of symptoms.