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Newer Class of Antidepressants Similar in Effectiveness, Side Effects Differ

Today’s most commonly prescribed antidepressants are similar in effectiveness to each other but differ when it comes to possible side effects, according to an analysis// released today by HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The findings, based on a review of nearly 300 published studies of second-generation antidepressants, show that about six in 10 adult patients get some relief from the drugs. About six in 10 also experience at least one side effect, ranging from nausea to sexual dysfunction.

Patients who don’t respond to one of the drugs often try another medication within the same class. About one in four of those patients recover, according to the review. Overall, current evidence on the drugs is insufficient for clinicians to predict which medications will work best for individual patients.

Second-generation antidepressants, which include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are often prescribed because first-generation antidepressants (such as tricyclic antidepressants, or TCAs) can cause intolerable side effects and carry high risks.

“Second-generation antidepressants provide hope for many of the millions of Americans who struggle with depression,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, MD. “But often trying to find the right drug is trial and error, and in many cases relief is temporary or comes with serious side effects. It’s clear we need more evidence to help patients and their doctors make the best choices.”

Authors of the new Comparative Effectiveness Review analyzed the benefits and risks of a dozen second-generation antidepressants: bupropion (sold as Wellbutrin), citalopram (Celexa), duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (formerly sold as Luvox), mirtazapine (Remeron), nefazodone (formerly Serzone), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), trazodone (formerly Desyre
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