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What is Effexor?

Effexor (venlafaxine) is used to treat depression. Effexor XR (venlafaxine hydrochloride; extended release capsules) is used to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD). Effexor is made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993.

Taking Effexor

Effexor is taken by mouth, with food, as prescribed by your healthcare professional. Swallow capsules whole, without crushing or chewing. You may, however, open the capsule, sprinkle contents on a spoonful of applesauce, take right away without chewing, and follow with a glass of water.

Effexor FDA Alert

In July 2006, the FDA issued an alert stating that a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome can occur when medicines called Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs, such as Effexor) and medicines used to treat migraine headaches known as 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor agonists (triptans), are taken together. Signs and symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • restlessness
  • hallucinations
  • loss of coordination
  • fast heartbeat
  • increased body temperature
  • fast changes in blood pressure
  • overactive reflexes
  • diarrhea
  • coma
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Serotonin syndrome may be more likely to occur when starting or increasing the dose of an SNRI or a triptan. If you take migraine headache medicines, ask your healthcare professional if your medicine is a triptan.

More information on antidepressants is available from the FDA here.

Effexor and Increased Risk of Suicidality

In October 2004, the FDA issued a public health advisory directing all antidepressant drug manufacturers to revise their products' labeling to include boxed warning and expanded warning statements that alert healthcare providers to an increased risk of suicidality (suicidal thinking and behavior) in children and adolescents being treated with these medications. Effexor maker Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has since added a black box warning to Effexor prescribing information in response to the FDA advisory. Click here for more information on this advisory.

In June 2005, the FDA announced that several recent scientific publications suggested the possibility of an increased risk for suicidal behavior in adults being treated with antidepressant medications, including Effexor. The FDA advised that adults taking antidepressants, particularly those being treated for depression, should be watched closely for worsening depression and increased suicidality. Monitoring these patients is especially important when treatment begins, and when doses are increased or decreased. The FDA is working closely with antidepressant manufacturers to fully evaluate the risk of suicidality in adults treated with these medications. 

Who Should Not Take Effexor?

Never take Effexor if you are taking another drug used to treat depression called a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI), or if you have stopped taking an MAOI in the last 14 days. Taking Effexor and an MAOI within a close period of time can result in serious (and sometimes fatal) reactions including:

  • High body temperature
  • Coma
  • Seizures (convulsions)

MAOI drugs include:

  • Nardil (phenelzine sulfate)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine sulfate)
  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)
  • Other brands

Effexor Health Risks

Health risks associated with Effexor use include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • High blood pressure or faster heartbeat
  • Bleeding Problems
  • Mania (becoming unusually hyperactive, excitable, or elated)
  • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Problems if you are or may become pregnant. Babies delivered to mothers taking Effexor late in pregnancy have developed problems, such as difficulty breathing and feeding.
  • Weight loss
  • Sexual Problems, including impotence (erectile dysfunction), abnormal ejaculation, difficulty reaching orgasm, or decreased libido (sexual desire)

Other side effects from Effexor use include:

  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constipation

Do not stop taking Effexor suddenly. Doing so may result in harmful side effects. Your healthcare professional should slowly decrease your dose.

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Professional?

Tell your healthcare professional about all known medical conditions, especially if you have liver, kidney, or heart disease, or glaucoma. Tell your healthcare professional if you breast-feed or plan to breast-feed your baby.

Can Other Medicines or Food Affect Effexor?

Effexor and certain other medicines can interact with each other. Tell your healthcare professional about all the medicines you take - including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

In light of the July 2006 FDA alert, it is important to talk to your healthcare professional before taking Effexor and a triptan medicine together. If you must take Effexor and a triptan medicine together, be aware of the possibility of getting serotonin syndrome. Seek immediate medical attention if you think serotonin syndrome is happening to you.

If you plan to drink alcohol while taking Effexor, talk to your healthcare professional.

Effexor - Getting Legal Help

While all medications have certain anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to make its products as reasonably safe as possible, and to inform the medical community and the public of known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible if patients are injured as the result of inadequate warnings or the unreasonably dangerous nature of the drug, under a legal theory called "product liability."

If you or a loved one have experienced any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions related to Effexor use, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also wish to meet with an experienced attorney to discuss your options and to protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Effexor use.

  • Go here to learn more about an attorney's role in a pharmaceutical liability case.
  • To find an experienced attorney, use the "Find a Lawyer" tool on this page, or click here.

See also:

  • Why Drugs Get Pulled from the Market
  • Pharmaceutical Product Liability
  • Next Steps
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