Introduction: Desvenlafaxine, the active metabolite of venlafaxine, is a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) recently approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder. It is one of only three medications in this class available in the United States.
Aims: The objective of this article is to review the published evidence for the safety and efficacy of desvenlafaxine, and to compare it to other antidepressants to delineate its role in the treatment of depression.
Evidence review: At the recommended dose of 50 mg per day the rate of response and remission was similar to other SNRIs, as was the adverse effect profile. The rate of discontinuation was no greater than placebo, and a discontinuation syndrome was not observed at this dose. Higher doses were not associated with greater efficacy, but they did lead to more side effects, and the use of a taper prior to discontinuation. The most common side effects reported were insomnia, somnolence, dizziness, and nausea. Some subjects experienced clinically significant blood pressure elevation.
Place in therapy: Like duloxetine, desvenlafaxine inhibits the reuptake of both norepinephrine and serotonin at the starting dose. Dual reuptake inhibitors have been shown to have small but statistically significantly greater rates of response and remission compared to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and they have also shown early promise in the treatment of neuropathic pain. Desvenlafaxine may prove to be a valuable treatment option by expanding the limited number of available dual reuptake inhibitors.
Keywords: depression; desvenlafaxine; norepinephrine; reuptake inhibitors; serotonin.