Effexor, also known as Venlafaxine, is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). It is an antidepressant manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and is used in the treatment of depression, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Side Effects of Effexor
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that cautioned when SNRIs like Effexor and medications used in the treatment of migraines called Triptans are taken in combination, a condition called Serotonin Syndrome can result. The symptoms of this condition include accelerated heart beat, abrupt changes in blood pressure, problems in coordination, hallucinations and comas. In 2004, the FDA issued an advisory that called for manufacturers of antidepressant drugs to include strong boxed warnings that notify users of a high risk of suicidal behavior in children using these drugs. Other health risks associated with the use of Effexor include an increase in blood pressure, faster heart beat, suicidal behavior, bleeding, symptoms of mania and sexual dysfunction, including impotence. Effexor may be dangerous if used by patients who suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes.
Effexor and Birth Defects
Beside the side effects Effexor has on adults, it has also been found to have serious effects in fetuses whose mothers took the medication. Over the last several years, numerous studies have linked Effexor and other SNRIs to fetal defects in the case of pregnant women who took antidepressants after the 20th week of pregnancy.
The most serious birth defects caused by Effexor are Primary Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn [PPHN]. Studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that babies born to women who took Effexor and other similar antidepressants in the second half of their pregnancies were up to 6 times more likely to develop PPHN than women who did not take Effexor.
In Primary Pulmonary Hypertension [PPH], the arteries of the lungs are severely restricted, causing an increase in the blood pressure of the pulmonary artery. Consequently, there is an interruption in the flow of blood and reduction in the level of oxygen in the blood. Newborn infants who suffer from this condition have difficulty processing oxygen after birth. There is a very low supply of blood to the heart, which can affect the organs. Newborn babies who suffer from PPHN may have a fast heartbeat, accelerated breathing rate, and respiratory problems. Also, the skin may have a blue tinge and the infant can suffer heart failure, kidney and organ damage and even death.
The FDA requires manufacturers of SNRIs like Effexor to include information about the risk of PPHN in their prescribing information.
Other drugs similar to Effexor include: