Patients who are suffering from common mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder may find symptom relief with prescription drug treatment.
Effexor ER is an extended-release antidepressant that can be taken once daily. It comes in strengths of 37.5 mg, 75 mg and 150 mg.
What is Effexor?
Effexor is a brand-name prescription drug that belongs to a class of drugs called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
SNRIs like Effexor are commonly prescribed for the treatment of mental health conditions and are broadly known as antidepressants.
Effexor, which is also sold under the generic name venlafaxine, was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 for the treatment of depression.
The body converts the active ingredient of Effexor, venlafaxine, into the active metabolite o-desmethylvenlafaxine.
Effexor works by increasing the availability of serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitters to stabilize mood.
What conditions are treated with Effexor?
Effexor is approved by the FDA for the treatment of several common mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder (clinical depression), generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.
A brief explanation of each of these conditions and their associated symptoms is provided below.
Clinical Depression/Major Depressive Disorder
Clinical depression, a common mental health condition that is sometimes referred to as major depressive disorder, is a form of depression that is marked by feelings of sadness that are persistent, intense, and last for a period of at least two weeks.
The condition can cause mental, physical, and emotional symptoms, including changes in mood or behavior, as well as changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
Patients suffering from clinical depression frequently struggle to perform routine daily tasks and may lose interest in performing activities or hobbies that they previously enjoyed.
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also a common symptom of major depressive disorder. It is estimated that approximately seven percent of American adults experience an episode of major depressive disorder each year.
The following symptoms are commonly associated with major depressive disorder:
- Feeling sad, empty, or tearful
- Mood swings
- Sleeping and eating more or less than usual
- Difficult concentrating
- Low energy
- Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by extreme fear or apprehension that does not have an obvious cause and lasts for six months or more, interfering with a person’s quality of life.
Our bodies naturally respond to sources of stress with anxiety, which is characterized by fear or apprehension about what is to come.
Although we all feel anxious at different times in our lives, anxiety becomes a problem when the feelings last longer than six months, begin to interfere with a person’s quality of life, or become severe.
People with generalized anxiety disorder often know that their feelings are irrational but are unable to control their anxiety.
Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include an increased heart rate, trouble concentrating, rapid breathing, restlessness, and difficulty falling asleep.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurrent panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense anxiety and fear that cause physical symptoms like sweating, racing heart rate, and chest pain.
Panic attacks usually do not have a clearly identifiable cause and are a terrifying experience, particularly for those who have never experienced one.
While many people experience one or two panic attacks throughout the course of their lives, recurrent panic attacks are a sign of panic disorder.
Symptoms of panic attacks include:
- Chest pain
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Trembling or shaking
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling detached from reality
- Fear of loss of control
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal cramping
How much does Effexor cost?
The cost of Effexor will vary dramatically depending on whether the medication is purchased in its brand name form or as the generic drug venlafaxine HCL ER.
When purchased in its brand-name form, Effexor XR is much more expensive than when purchased in its generic form.
As indicated in the table below, a 30-day supply of Effexor XR costs approximately 40 times as much as a 30-day supply of the same form and strength of venlafaxine HCL ER.
The generic form of the drug is covered by most commercial insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid, while the brand name version of the drug is less likely to be covered unless a doctor can provide proof that treatment with the brand-name drug is medically necessary.
Regardless of which type of prescription drug insurance coverage you have, if any, it is possible to save money when purchasing either form of the drug using a pharmacy discount card.
Pharmacy discount cards are free, available to all patients regardless of their insured status, and provide discounts on all brand-name and generic drugs that are approved by the FDA.
Costs of a 30-Day Supply of Effexor XR and Venlafaxine HCL ER
37.5 mg oral capsules
150 mg oral capsules
Venlafaxine HCL ER
How do I know which dosage of Effexor is right for me?
The right dose of Effexor varies from person to person and will be determined by your healthcare provider based on the condition being treated, your age, and the form of the medication you take.
SNRIs like Effexor may need to be adjusted several times before the right dose is found, so people taking the medication should be aware that their symptoms may continue for several months until they have settled on a dose.
When used to treat major depressive disorder in adults, the typical starting dose of Effexor is 75 mg taken by mouth once per day.
Once patients have moved to a maintenance dose, they will typically take 75 mg to 225 mg orally once per day depending on the condition being treated.
The maximum dose of Effexor varies depending on whether a patient has moderate or severe depression; moderately depressed patients may take a maximum dose of 225 mg per day while those who are severely depressed patients may take up to 375 mg of Effexor per day.
Effexor is used at an initial dose of 37.5 mg taken by mouth once per day for one week to treat panic disorder in adults.
After the first seven days of using the medication, the patient’s dose may be increased to 75 mg taken orally once per day.
Most adults taking Effexor for panic disorder will take a maintenance dose of 75 mg to 225 mg. The maximum dosage of Effexor for patients with panic disorder is 225 mg per day.
When Effexor is taken for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder in adults, the initial dosage is 75 mg taken orally once a day. Once the patient’s body has adjusted to the medication, they may take a maintenance dosage of between 75 mg and 225 mg taken orally once a day.
The maximum dose for adults with generalized anxiety disorder is 225 mg per day.
Effexor acts on the chemistry of the brain and may take up to six weeks to take full effect.
Due to the effects of Effexor on the brain chemistry, abrupt discontinuation of the drug or reduction of your dose can cause withdrawal symptoms.
Patients who have been taking Effexor for an extended period of time are particularly susceptible to withdrawal symptoms, but anyone can experience withdrawal when discontinuing the drug.
The best way to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms or minimize the severity of the symptoms is to change the dose or stop treatment only under the guidance of a doctor.
Most doctors will recommend gradually reducing the dose of the drug over time in order to allow your body and brain a chance to adjust to a lower dose.
You should seek medical advice if you experience symptoms of Effexor withdrawal, including:
- Paresthesia (prickling or tingling sensations on the skin)
Are there any side effects associated with Effexor?
Like many other antidepressants, Effexor is known to cause a lengthy list of side effects, although each person will react to the medication differently.
Side effects associated with Effexor can generally be classified as common and less common.
Common side effects associated with Effexor that do not require medical attention unless they are severe or do not go away include:
- Blurred vision
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Unusual dreams
- Sexual problems
- Increased heart rate
Serious side effects of Effexor are less common but can be potentially dangerous. If you experience any of the following side effects while taking Effexor, seek medical attention immediately:
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- Serotonin syndrome
- Manic episodes
- Low sodium levels in the blood
- Abnormal bleeding
- Shortness of breath
- Severe itching
- Swelling of the face, tongue, or mouth
This may not be a complete list of side effects. Consult a healthcare provider for other possible side effects associated with Effexor.
Are there any warnings associated with Effexor?
When taking Effexor, patients should avoid or monitor their use of other drugs that alter the level of serotonin in the brain. Combining Effexor with serotonergic drugs can lead to an increased risk of serotonin syndrome.
Women who are breastfeeding or who are planning to breastfeed should not take Effexor, as it can pass into breast milk and cause withdrawal symptoms in infants.
Patients with medical conditions including angle closure glaucoma, bleeding disorders, kidney disease, liver disease, or suicidal thoughts should not take Effexor or be closely monitored while taking the drug.
Effexor is associated with a long list of potential drug interactions, so patients must be careful to give their doctors and pharmacists a complete list of any prescription drugs, over the counter medications, herbs, supplements, and recreational drugs that they are using.
Potential drug interactions associated with Effexor include:
- Anticoagulants, such as warfarin
- MAO inhibitors such as isocarboxazid, phenelzine, selegiline, and tranylcypromine
- Medications for migraines, including frovatriptan, naratriptan, almotriptan, zolmitriptan, eletriptan, rizatriptan, sumatriptan
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- St. John’s wort
- Methylene blue
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline
This may not be a complete list of drug interactions. Consult a healthcare provider for other possible drug interactions associated with Effexor.
Effexor should be stored at room temperature out of the reach of children.
Effexor is a brand-name antidepressant that is used for the treatment of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder in adults. The drug has the potential to interact with many different medications, so patients should provide a complete list of all medications and supplements that they are taking. Side effects commonly associated with Effexor include nausea, dry mouth, and dizziness.
Patients looking to save on their prescription can choose the generic form of the drug, venlafaxine HCL, and can also purchase their prescription using a pharmacy discount card from Pharmacists.org.
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