"What are antidepressants and how do they work?
Antidepressants are a class of drugs that reduce symptoms of depressive disorders by correcting chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain. Chemical imbalances may be respo"...
Clinical Worsening and Suicide Risk
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), both adult and pediatric, may experience worsening of their depression and/or the emergence of suicidal ideation and behavior (suicidality) or unusual changes in behavior, whether or not they are taking antidepressant medications, and this risk may persist until significant remission occurs. Suicide is a known risk of depression and certain other psychiatric disorders, and these disorders themselves are the strongest predictors of suicide. There has been a long-standing concern, however, that antidepressants may have a role in inducing worsening of depression and the emergence of suicidality in certain patients during the early phases of treatment. Pooled analyses of short-term placebo-controlled trials of antidepressant drugs (SSRIs and others) showed that these drugs increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 18 to 24) with major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Short-term studies did not show an increase in the risk of suicidality with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults beyond age 24; there was a reduction with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults aged 65 and older.
The pooled analyses of placebo-controlled trials in children and adolescents with MDD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or other psychiatric disorders included a total of 24 short-term trials of 9 antidepressant drugs in over 4400 patients. The pooled analyses of placebo-controlled trials in adults with MDD or other psychiatric disorders included a total of 295 short-term trials (median duration of 2 months) of 11 antidepressant drugs in over 77,000 patients. There was considerable variation in risk of suicidality among drugs, but a tendency toward an increase in the younger patients for almost all drugs studied. There were differences in absolute risk of suicidality across the different indications, with the highest incidence in MDD. The risk differences (drug vs placebo), however, were relatively stable within age strata and across indications. These risk differences (drug-placebo difference in the number of cases of suicidality per 1000 patients treated) are provided in Table 1.
|Age Range||Drug-Placebo Difference in Number of Cases of Suicidality per 1000 Patients Treated|
|Increases Compared to Placebo|
| < 18
|14 additional cases
5 additional cases
|Decreases Compared to Placebo|
|1 fewer case
6 fewer cases
No suicides occurred in any of the pediatric trials. There were suicides in the adult trials, but the number was not sufficient to reach any conclusion about drug effect on suicide.
It is unknown whether the suicidality risk extends to longer-term use, i.e., beyond several months. However, there is substantial evidence from placebo-controlled maintenance trials in adults with depression that the use of antidepressants can delay the recurrence of depression.
All patients being treated with antidepressants for any indication should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the initial few months of a course of drug therapy, or at times of dose changes, either increases or decreases.
The following symptoms, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania, have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder as well as for other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric. Although a causal link between the emergence of such symptoms and either the worsening of depression and/or the emergence of suicidal impulses has not been established, there is concern that such symptoms may represent precursors to emerging suicidality.
Consideration should be given to changing the therapeutic regimen, including possibly discontinuing the medication, in patients whose depression is persistently worse, or who are experiencing emergent suicidality or symptoms that might be precursors to worsening depression or suicidality, especially if these symptoms are severe, abrupt in onset, or were not part of the patient's presenting symptoms.
Families and caregivers of patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder or other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric, should be alerted about the need to monitor patients for the emergence of agitation, irritability, unusual changes in behavior, and the other symptoms described above, as well as the emergence of suicidality, and to report such symptoms immediately to health care providers. Such monitoring should include daily observation by families and caregivers. Prescriptions for clomipramine hydrochloride should be written for the smallest quantity of capsules consistent with good patient management, in order to reduce the risk of overdose.
Screening Patients for Bipolar Disorder
A major depressive episode may be the initial presentation of bipolar disorder. It is generally believed (though not established in controlled trials) that treating such an episode with an antidepressant alone may increase the likelihood of precipitation of a mixed/manic episode in patients at risk for bipolar disorder. Whether any of the symptoms described above represent such a conversion is unknown. However, prior to initiating treatment with an antidepressant, patients with depressive symptoms should be adequately screened to determine if they are at risk for bipolar disorder; such screening should include a detailed psychiatric history, including a family history of suicide, bipolar disorder, and depression. It should be noted that clomipramine hydrochloride is not approved for use in treating bipolar depression.
The development of a potentially life-threatening serotonin syndrome has been reported with SNRIs and SSRIs, including Anafranil, alone but particularly with concomitant use of other serotonergic drugs (including triptans, tricyclic antidepressants, fentanyl, lithium, tramadol, tryptophan, buspirone, and St. John's Wort) and with drugs that impair metabolism of serotonin (in particular, MAOIs, both those intended to treat psychiatric disorders and also others, such as linezolid and intravenous methylene blue).
Serotonin syndrome symptoms may include mental status changes (e.g., agitation, hallucinations, delirium, and coma), autonomic instability (e.g., tachycardia, labile blood pressure, dizziness, diaphoresis, flushing, hyperthermia), neuromuscular changes (e.g., tremor, rigidity, myoclonus, hyperreflexia, incoordination), seizures, and/or gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). Patients should be monitored for the emergence of serotonin syndrome.
The concomitant use of Anafranil with MAOIs intended to treat psychiatric disorders is contraindicated. Anafranil should also not be started in a patient who is being treated with MAOIs such as linezolid or intravenous methylene blue. All reports with methylene blue that provided information on the route of administration involved intravenous administration in the dose range of 1 mg/kg to 8 mg/kg. No reports involved the administration of methylene blue by other routes (such as oral tablets or local tissue injection) or at lower doses. There may be circumstances when it is necessary to initiate treatment with an MAOI such as linezolid or intravenous methylene blue in a patient taking Anafranil. Anafranil should be discontinued before initiating treatment with the MAOI (see CONTRAINDICATIONS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
If concomitant use of Anafranil with other serotonergic drugs, including triptans, tricyclic antidepressants, fentanyl, lithium, tramadol, buspirone, tryptophan, and St. John's Wort is clinically warranted, patients should be made aware of a potential increased risk for serotonin syndrome, particularly during treatment initiation and dose increases.
Treatment with Anafranil and any concomitant serotonergic agents should be discontinued immediately if the above events occur and supportive symptomatic treatment should be initiated.
During premarket evaluation, seizure was identified as the most significant risk of Anafranil use.
The observed cumulative incidence of seizures among patients exposed to Anafranil at doses up to 300 mg/day was 0.64% at 90 days, 1.12% at 180 days, and 1.45% at 365 days. The cumulative rates correct the crude rate of 0.7% (25 of 3519 patients) for the variable duration of exposure in clinical trials.
Although dose appears to be a predictor of seizure, there is a confounding of dose and duration of exposure, making it difficult to assess independently the effect of either factor alone. The ability to predict the occurrence of seizures in subjects exposed to doses of CMI greater than 250 mg is limited, given that the plasma concentration of CMI may be dose-dependent and may vary among subjects given the same dose. Nevertheless, prescribers are advised to limit the daily dose to a maximum of 250 mg in adults and 3 mg/kg (or 200 mg) in children and adolescents (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Caution should be used in administering Anafranil to patients with a history of seizures or other predisposing factors, e.g., brain damage of varying etiology, alcoholism, and concomitant use with other drugs that lower the seizure threshold.
Rare reports of fatalities in association with seizures have been reported by foreign postmarketing surveillance, but not in U.S. clinical trials. In some of these cases, Anafranil had been administered with other epileptogenic agents; in others, the patients involved had possibly predisposing medical conditions. Thus a causal association between Anafranil treatment and these fatalities has not been established.
Physicians should discuss with patients the risk of taking Anafranil while engaging in activities in which sudden loss of consciousness could result in serious injury to the patient or others, e.g., the operation of complex machinery, driving, swimming, climbing.
Since depression is a commonly associated feature of OCD, the risk of suicide must be considered. Prescriptions for Anafranil should be written for the smallest quantity of capsules consistent with good patient management, in order to reduce the risk of overdose.
Modest orthostatic decreases in blood pressure and modest tachycardia were each seen in approximately 20% of patients taking Anafranil in clinical trials; but patients were frequently asymptomatic. Among approximately 1400 patients treated with CMI in the premarketing experience who had ECGs, 1.5% developed abnormalities during treatment, compared with 3.1% of patients receiving active control drugs and 0.7% of patients receiving placebo. The most common ECG changes were PVCs, ST-T wave changes, and intraventricular conduction abnormalities. These changes were rarely associated with significant clinical symptoms. Nevertheless, caution is necessary in treating patients with known cardiovascular disease, and gradual dose titration is recommended.
Psychosis, Confusion, and Other Neuropsychiatric Phenomena
Patients treated with Anafranil have been reported to show a variety of neuropsychiatric signs and symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, psychotic episodes, confusion, and paranoia. Because of the uncontrolled nature of many of the studies, it is impossible to provide a precise estimate of the extent of risk imposed by treatment with Anafranil. As with tricyclic antidepressants to which it is closely related, Anafranil may precipitate an acute psychotic episode in patients with unrecognized schizophrenia.
During premarketing testing of Anafranil in patients with affective disorder, hypomania or mania was precipitated in several patients. Activation of mania or hypomania has also been reported in a small proportion of patients with affective disorder treated with marketed tricyclic antidepressants, which are closely related to Anafranil.
During premarketing testing, Anafranil was occasionally associated with elevations in SGOT and SGPT (pooled incidence of approximately 1% and 3%, respectively) of potential clinical importance (i.e., values greater than 3 times the upper limit of normal). In the vast majority of instances, these enzyme increases were not associated with other clinical findings suggestive of hepatic injury; moreover, none were jaundiced. Rare reports of more severe liver injury, some fatal, have been recorded in foreign postmarketing experience. Caution is indicated in treating patients with known liver disease, and periodic monitoring of hepatic enzyme levels is recommended in such patients.
Although no instances of severe hematologic toxicity were seen in the premarketing experience with Anafranil, there have been postmarketing reports of leukopenia, agranulocytosis, thrombocytopenia, anemia, and pancytopenia in association with Anafranil use. As is the case with tricyclic antidepressants to which Anafranil is closely related, leukocyte and differential blood counts should be obtained in patients who develop fever and sore throat during treatment with Anafranil.
Central Nervous System
More than 30 cases of hyperthermia have been recorded by nondomestic postmarketing surveillance systems. Most cases occurred when Anafranil was used in combination with other drugs. When Anafranil and a neuroleptic were used concomitantly, the cases were sometimes considered to be examples of a neuroleptic malignant syndrome.
The rate of sexual dysfunction in male patients with OCD who were treated with Anafranil in the premarketing experience was markedly increased compared with placebo controls (i.e., 42% experienced ejaculatory failure and 20% experienced impotence, compared with 2.0% and 2.6%, respectively, in the placebo group). Approximately 85% of males with sexual dysfunction chose to continue treatment.
In controlled studies of OCD, weight gain was reported in 18% of patients receiving Anafranil, compared with 1% of patients receiving placebo. In these studies, 28% of patients receiving Anafranil had a weight gain of at least 7% of their initial body weight, compared with 4% of patients receiving placebo. Several patients had weight gains in excess of 25% of their initial body weight. Conversely, 5% of patients receiving Anafranil and 1% receiving placebo had weight losses of at least 7% of their initial body weight.
As with closely related tricyclic antidepressants, concurrent administration of Anafranil with electroconvulsive therapy may increase the risks; such treatment should be limited to those patients for whom it is essential, since there is limited clinical experience.
Use in Concomitant Illness
As with closely related tricyclic antidepressants, Anafranil should be used with caution in the following:
- Hyperthyroid patients or patients receiving thyroid medication, because of the possibility of cardiac toxicity;
- Patients with increased intraocular pressure, a history of narrow-angle glaucoma, or urinary retention, because of the anticholinergic properties of the drug;
- Patients with tumors of the adrenal medulla (e.g., pheochromocytoma, neuroblastoma) in whom the drug may provoke hypertensive crises;
- Patients with significantly impaired renal function.
A variety of withdrawal symptoms have been reported in association with abrupt discontinuation of Anafranil, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, malaise, sleep disturbance, hyperthermia, and irritability. In addition, such patients may experience a worsening of psychiatric status. While the withdrawal effects of Anafranil have not been systematically evaluated in controlled trials, they are well known with closely related tricyclic antidepressants, and it is recommended that the dosage be tapered gradually and the patient monitored carefully during discontinuation (see Drug Abuse And Dependence).
Information for Patients
Prescribers or other health professionals should inform patients, their families, and their caregivers about the benefits and risks associated with treatment with clomipramine hydrochloride and should counsel them in its appropriate use. A patient Medication Guide about “Antidepressant Medicines, Depression and other Serious Mental Illness, and Suicidal Thoughts or Actions” is available for clomipramine hydrochloride. The prescriber or health professional should instruct patients, their families, and their caregivers to read the Medication Guide and should assist them in understanding its contents. Patients should be given the opportunity to discuss the contents of the Medication Guide and to obtain answers to any questions they may have. The complete text of the Medication Guide is reprinted at the end of this document.
Patients should be advised of the following issues and asked to alert their prescriber if these occur while taking clomipramine hydrochloride.
Clinical Worsening and Suicide Risk
Patients, their families, and their caregivers should be encouraged to be alert to the emergence of anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, mania, other unusual changes in behavior, worsening of depression, and suicidal ideation, especially early during antidepressant treatment and when the dose is adjusted up or down. Families and caregivers of patients should be advised to look for the emergence of such symptoms on a day-to-day basis, since changes may be abrupt. Such symptoms should be reported to the patient's prescriber or health professional, especially if they are severe, abrupt in onset, or were not part of the patient's presenting symptoms. Symptoms such as these may be associated with an increased risk for suicidal thinking and behavior and indicate a need for very close monitoring and possibly changes in the medication.
Physicians are advised to discuss the following issues with patients for whom they prescribe Anafranil:
- The risk of seizure (see WARNINGS);
- The relatively high incidence of sexual dysfunction among males (see Sexual Dysfunction);
- Since Anafranil may impair the mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of complex tasks, and since Anafranil is associated with a risk of seizures, patients should be cautioned about the performance of complex and hazardous tasks (see WARNINGS);
- Patients should be cautioned about using alcohol, barbiturates, or other CNS depressants concurrently, since Anafranil may exaggerate their response to these drugs;
- Patients should notify their physician if they become pregnant or intend to become pregnant during therapy;
- Patients should notify their physician if they are breast-feeding.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
No evidence of carcinogenicity was found in two 2-year bioassays in rats at doses up to 100 mg/kg, which is 24 and 4 times the maximum recommended human daily dose (MRHD) on a mg/kg and mg/m² basis, respectively, or in a 2-year bioassay in mice at doses up to 80 mg/kg, which is 20 and 1.5 times the MRHD on a mg/kg and mg/m² basis, respectively.
In reproduction studies, no effects on fertility were found in rats given up to 24 mg/kg, which is 6 times, and approximately equal to, the MRHD on a mg/kg and mg/m² basis, respectively.
Pregnancy Category C
No teratogenic effects were observed in studies performed in rats and mice at doses up to 100 mg/kg, which is 24 times the maximum recommended human daily dose (MRHD) on a mg/kg basis and 4 times (rats) and 2 times (mice) the MRHD on a mg/m² basis.
Slight nonspecific embryo/fetotoxic effects were seen in the offspring of treated rats given 50 and 100 mg/kg and of treated mice given 100 mg/kg.
There are no adequate or well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Withdrawal symptoms, including jitteriness, tremor, and seizures, have been reported in neonates whose mothers had taken Anafranil until delivery. Anafranil should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Anafranil has been found in human milk. Because of the potential for adverse reactions, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.
Safety and effectiveness in the pediatric population other than pediatric patients with OCD have not been established (see BOX WARNING and WARNINGS, Clinical Worsening and Suicide Risk). Anyone considering the use of Anafranil in a child or adolescent must balance the potential risks with the clinical need.
In a controlled clinical trial in children and adolescents (10 to 17 years of age), 46 outpatients received Anafranil for up to 8 weeks. In addition, 150 adolescent patients have received Anafranil in open-label protocols for periods of several months to several years. Of the 196 adolescents studied, 50 were 13 years of age or less and 146 were 14 to 17 years of age. The adverse reaction profile in this age group (see ADVERSE REACTIONS) is similar to that observed in adults.
The risks, if any, that may be associated with Anafranil's extended use in children and adolescents with OCD have not been systematically assessed. The evidence supporting the conclusion that Anafranil is safe for use in children and adolescents is derived from relatively short term clinical studies and from extrapolation of experience gained with adult patients. In particular, there are no studies that directly evaluate the effects of long term Anafranil use on the growth, development, and maturation of children and adolescents. Although there is no evidence to suggest that Anafranil adversely affects growth, development or maturation, the absence of such findings is not adequate to rule out a potential for such effects in chronic use.
The safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients below the age of 10 have not been established. Therefore, specific recommendations cannot be made for the use of Anafranil in pediatric patients under the age of 10.
Clinical studies of Anafranil did not include sufficient numbers of subjects age 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects; 152 patients at least 60 years of age participating in various U.S. clinical trials received Anafranil for periods of several months to several years. No unusual age- related adverse events were identified in this population. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.
Last reviewed on RxList: 11/5/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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