Discontinuation symptoms have been systematically evaluated in patients taking venlafaxine, to include prospective analyses of clinical trials in Generalized Anxiety Disorder and retrospective surveys of trials in major depressive disorder. Abrupt discontinuation or dose reduction of venlafaxine at various doses has been found to be associated with the appearance of new symptoms, the frequency of which increased with increased dose level and with longer duration of treatment. Reported symptoms include agitation, anorexia, anxiety, confusion, impaired coordination and balance, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, dysphoric mood, fasciculation, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headaches, hypomania, insomnia, nausea, nervousness, nightmares, sensory disturbances (including shock-like electrical sensations), somnolence, sweating, tremor, vertigo, and vomiting.
During marketing of venlafaxine hydrochloride, other SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors), and SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), there have been spontaneous reports of adverse events occurring upon discontinuation of these drugs, particularly when abrupt, including the following: dysphoric mood, irritability, agitation, dizziness, sensory disturbances (e.g., paresthesias such as electric shock sensations), anxiety, confusion, headache, lethargy, emotional lability, insomnia, hypomania, tinnitus, and seizures. While these events are generally self-limiting, there have been reports of serious discontinuation symptoms.
Patients should be monitored for these symptoms when discontinuing treatment with venlafaxine hydrochloride. A gradual reduction in the dose rather than abrupt cessation is recommended whenever possible. If intolerable symptoms occur following a decrease in the dose or upon discontinuation of treatment, then resuming the previously prescribed dose may be considered. Subsequently, the physician may continue decreasing the dose but at a more gradual rate (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Treatment-emergent anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia were more commonly reported for venlafaxine-treated patients compared to placebo-treated patients in a pooled analysis of short-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled depression studies:
Venlafaxine n = 1033
Placebo n = 609
Anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia led to drug discontinuation in 2%, 2%, and 3%, respectively, of the patients treated with venlafaxine in the Phase 2 and Phase 3 depression studies.
A dose-dependent weight loss was noted in patients treated with venlafaxine for several weeks. A loss of 5% or more of body weight occurred in 6% of patients treated with venlafaxine compared with 1% of patients treated with placebo and 3% of patients treated with another antidepressant. However, discontinuation for weight loss associated with venlafaxine was uncommon (0.1% of venlafaxine-treated patients in the Phase 2 and Phase 3 depression trials).
The safety and efficacy of venlafaxine therapy in combination with weight loss agents, including phentermine, have not been established. Coadministration of venlafaxine hydrochloride and weight loss agents is not recommended. Venlafaxine hydrochloride is not indicated for weight loss alone or in combination with other products.
Weight loss has been observed in pediatric patients (ages 6 to 17) receiving venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules. In a pooled analysis of four eight-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, flexible dose outpatient trials for major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsule-treated patients lost an average of 0.45 kg (n = 333), while placebo-treated patients gained an average of 0.77 kg (n = 333). More patients treated with venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules than with placebo experienced a weight loss of at least 3.5% in both the MDD and the GAD studies (18% of venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsule-treated patients vs. 3.6% of placebo-treated patients; p < 0.001). Weight loss was not limited to patients with treatment-emergent anorexia (see PRECAUTIONS, General, Changes in Appetite).
The risks associated with longer-term venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsule use were assessed in an open-label study of children and adolescents who received venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules for up to six months. The children and adolescents in the study had increases in weight that were less than expected based on data from age- and sex-matched peers. The difference between observed weight gain and expected weight gain was larger for children (< 12 years old) than for adolescents (> 12 years old).
During the eight-week placebo-controlled GAD studies, venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsule-treated patients (ages 6 to 17) grew an average of 0.3 cm (n = 122), while placebo-treated patients grew an average of 1.0 cm (n = 132); p = 0.041. This difference in height increase was most notable in patients younger than twelve. During the eight-week placebo-controlled MDD studies, venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsule-treated patients grew an average of 0.8 cm (n = 146), while placebo-treated patients grew an average of 0.7 cm (n = 147). In the six-month open-label study, children and adolescents had height increases that were less than expected based on data from age- and sex-matched peers. The difference between observed growth rates and expected growth rates was larger for children (< 12 years old) than for adolescents (> 12 years old).
Treatment-emergent anorexia was more commonly reported for venlafaxine-treated (11%) than placebo-treated patients (2%) in the pool of short-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled depression studies.
Decreased appetite has been observed in pediatric patients receiving venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules. In the placebo-controlled trials for GAD and MDD, 10% of patients aged 6 to 17 treated with venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules for up to eight weeks and 3% of patients treated with placebo reported treatment-emergent anorexia (decreased appetite). None of the patients receiving venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules discontinued for anorexia or weight loss.
During Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials, hypomania or mania occurred in 0.5% of patients treated with venlafaxine. Activation of mania/hypomania has also been reported in a small proportion of patients with major affective disorder who were treated with other marketed antidepressants. As with all antidepressants, venlafaxine hydrochloride should be used cautiously in patients with a history of mania.
Hyponatremia may occur as a result of treatment with SSRIs and SNRIs, including venlafaxine hydrochloride. In many cases, this hyponatremia appears to be the result of the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH). Cases with serum sodium lower than 110 mmol/L have been reported. Elderly patients may be at greater risk of developing hyponatremia with SSRIs and SNRIs. Also, patients taking diuretics or who are otherwise volume depleted may be at greater risk (see PRECAUTIONS, Geriatric Use). Discontinuation of venlafaxine hydrochloride should be considered in patients with symptomatic hyponatremia and appropriate medical intervention should be instituted.
Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia include headache, difficulty concentrating, memory impairment, confusion, weakness, and unsteadiness, which may lead to falls. Signs and symptoms associated with more severe and/or acute cases have included hallucination, syncope, seizure, coma, respiratory arrest, and death.
During premarketing testing, seizures were reported in 0.26% (8/3082) of venlafaxine-treated patients. Most seizures (5 of 8) occurred in patients receiving doses of 150 mg/day or less. Venlafaxine hydrochloride should be used cautiously in patients with a history of seizures. It should be discontinued in any patient who develops seizures.
SSRIs and SNRIs, including venlafaxine hydrochloride, may increase the risk of bleeding events. Concomitant use of aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, warfarin, and other anti-coagulants may add to this risk. Case reports and epidemiological studies (case-control and cohort design) have demonstrated an association between use of drugs that interfere with serotonin reuptake and the occurrence of gastrointestinal bleeding. Bleeding events related to SSRIs and SNRIs use have ranged from ecchymoses, hematomas, epistaxis, and petechiae to life-threatening hemorrhages.
Patients should be cautioned about the risk of bleeding associated with the concomitant use of venlafaxine hydrochloride and NSAIDs, aspirin, or other drugs that affect coagulation.
Clinically relevant increases in serum cholesterol were recorded in 5.3% of venlafaxine-treated patients and 0.0% of placebo-treated patients treated for at least 3 months in placebo-controlled trials (see ADVERSE REACTIONS, Laboratory Changes). Measurement of serum cholesterol levels should be considered during long-term treatment.
Interstitial lung disease and eosinophilic pneumonia associated with venlafaxine therapy have been rarely reported. The possibility of these adverse events should be considered in venlafaxine-treated patients who present with progressive dyspnea, cough or chest discomfort. Such patients should undergo a prompt medical evaluation, and discontinuation of venlafaxine therapy should be considered.
Clinical experience with venlafaxine hydrochloride in patients with concomitant systemic illness is limited. Caution is advised in administering venlafaxine hydrochloride to patients with diseases or conditions that could affect hemodynamic responses or metabolism.
Venlafaxine hydrochloride has not been evaluated or used to any appreciable extent in patients with a recent history of myocardial infarction or unstable heart disease. Patients with these diagnoses were systematically excluded from many clinical studies during the product’s premarketing testing. Evaluation of the electrocardiograms for 769 patients who received venlafaxine hydrochloride in 4 to 6 week double-blind placebo-controlled trials, however, showed that the incidence of trial-emergent conduction abnormalities did not differ from that with placebo. The mean heart rate in venlafaxine hydrochloride-treated patients was increased relative to baseline by about 4 beats per minute.
The electrocardiograms for 357 patients who received venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules and 285 patients who received placebo in 8 to 12 week double-blind, placebo-controlled trials were analyzed. The mean change from baseline in corrected QT interval (QTc ) for venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsule-treated patients was increased relative to that for placebo-treated patients (increase of 4.7 msec for venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules and decrease of 1.9 msec for placebo). In these same trials, the mean change from baseline in heart rate for venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsule-treated patients was significantly higher than that for placebo (a mean increase of 4 beats per minute for venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules and 1 beat per minute for placebo). In a flexible-dose study, with venlafaxine hydrochloride doses in the range of 200 to 375 mg/day and mean dose greater than 300 mg/day, venlafaxine hydrochloride-treated patients had a mean increase in heart rate of 8.5 beats per minute compared with 1.7 beats per minute in the placebo group.
As increases in heart rate were observed, caution should be exercised in patients whose underlying medical conditions might be compromised by increases in heart rate (e.g., patients with hyperthyroidism, heart failure, or recent myocardial infarction), particularly when using doses of venlafaxine hydrochloride above 200 mg/day.
In patients with renal impairment (GFR = 10 to 70 mL/min) or cirrhosis of the liver, the clearances of venlafaxine and its active metabolite were decreased, thus prolonging the elimination half-lives of these substances. A lower dose may be necessary (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Venlafaxine hydrochloride, like all antidepressants, should be used with caution in such patients.
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