"April 8, 2015 -- A new study ties antidepressants to a higher risk for first-time seizures in people being treated for depression.
Older antidepressants called tricyclics were the only type not linked to the raised risk, say researchers fro"...
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|
|< 18||14 additional cases|
|18 to 24||5 additional cases|
|Decreases Compared to Placebo|
|25 to 64||1 fewer case|
|≥ 65||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 BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be written for the smallest quantity of tablets 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 BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) is not approved for use in treating bipolar depression.
Patients should be made aware that BUDEPRION XL™ contains the same active ingredient found in ZYBAN® or bupropion hydrochloride sustained-release tablets used as an aid to smoking cessation treatment, and that BUDEPRION XL™ should not be used in combination with ZYBAN® or bupropion hydrochloride sustained-release tablets, or any other medications that contain bupropion, such as WELLBUTRIN SR or bupropion hydrochloride sustained-release formulation; and WELLBUTRIN or bupropion hydrochloride immediate-release formulation.
Bupropion is associated with a dose-related risk of seizures. The risk of seizures is also related to patient factors, clinical situations, and concomitant medications, which must be considered in selection of patients for therapy with BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) . BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be discontinued and not restarted in patients who experience a seizure while on treatment.
As BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) is bioequivalent to both the immediate-release formulation of bupropion and to the sustained-release formulation of bupropion, the seizure incidence with BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) , while not formally evaluated in clinical trials, may be similar to that presented below for the immediate-release and sustained-release formulations of bupropion.
- Dose: At doses up to 300 mg/day of the sustained-release formulation of bupropion, the incidence of seizure is approximately 0.1% (1/1,000).
Data for the immediate-release formulation of bupropion revealed a seizure incidence of approximately 0.4% (i.e., 13 of 3,200 patients followed prospectively) in patients treated at doses in a range of 300 to 450 mg/day. This seizure incidence (0.4%) may exceed that of some other marketed antidepressants.
Additional data accumulated for the immediate-release formulation of bupropion suggested that the estimated seizure incidence increases almost tenfold between 450 and 600 mg/day. The 600 mg dose is twice the usual adult dose and one and one-third the maximum recommended daily dose (450 mg) of BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) . This disproportionate increase in seizure incidence with dose incrementation calls for caution in dosing.
- Patient factors: Predisposing factors that may increase the risk of seizure with bupropion use include history of head trauma or prior seizure, central nervous system (CNS) tumor, the presence of severe hepatic cirrhosis, and concomitant medications that lower seizure threshold.
- Clinical situations: Circumstances associated with an increased seizure risk include, among others, excessive use of alcohol or sedatives (including benzodiazepines); addiction to opiates, cocaine, or stimulants; use of over-the-counter stimulants and anorectics; and diabetes treated with oral hypoglycemics or insulin.
- Concomitant medications: Many medications (e.g., antipsychotics, antidepressants, theophylline, systemic steroids) are known to lower seizure threshold.
Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Seizure
Retrospective analysis of clinical experience gained during the development of bupropion suggests that the risk of seizure may be minimized if
- the total daily dose of BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) does not exceed 450 mg,
- the rate of incrementation of dose is gradual.
BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be administered with extreme caution to patients with a history of seizure, cranial trauma, or other predisposition(s) toward seizure, or patients treated with other agents (e.g., antipsychotics, other antidepressants, theophylline, systemic steroids, etc.) that lower seizure threshold.
BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be used with extreme caution in patients with severe hepatic cirrhosis. In these patients a reduced frequency and/or dose is required, as peak bupropion, as well as AUC, levels are substantially increased and accumulation is likely to occur in such patients to a greater extent than usual. The dose should not exceed 150 mg every other day in these patients (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, PRECAUTIONS, and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Potential for Hepatotoxicity
In rats receiving large doses of bupropion chronically, there was an increase in incidence of hepatic hyperplastic nodules and hepatocellular hypertrophy. In dogs receiving large doses of bupropion chronically, various histologic changes were seen in the liver, and laboratory tests suggesting mild hepatocellular injury were noted.
Agitation and Insomnia
Increased restlessness, agitation, anxiety, and insomnia, especially shortly after initiation of treatment, have been associated with treatment with bupropion. Patients in placebo-controlled trials of major depressive disorder with the sustained-release formulation of bupropion, experienced agitation, anxiety, and insomnia as shown in Table 2.
Table 2. Incidence of Agitation, Anxiety, and Insomnia in
Placebo-Controlled Trials of Sustained-release Formulation of Bupropion for
Major Depressive Disorder
(n = 376)
(n = 114)
(n = 385)
In clinical studies of major depressive disorder, these symptoms were sometimes of sufficient magnitude to require treatment with sedative/hypnotic drugs.
Symptoms in these studies were sufficiently severe to require discontinuation of treatment in 1% and 2.6% of patients treated with 300 and 400 mg/day, respectively, of bupropion sustained-release tablets and 0.8% of patients treated with placebo.
Psychosis, Confusion, and Other Neuropsychiatric Phenomena
Depressed patients treated with bupropion have been reported to show a variety of neuropsychiatric signs and symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, concentration disturbance, paranoia, and confusion. In some cases, these symptoms abated upon dose reduction and/or withdrawal of treatment.
Activation of Psychosis and/or Mania
Antidepressants can precipitate manic episodes in bipolar disorder patients during the depressed phase of their illness and may activate latent psychosis in other susceptible patients. BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) is expected to pose similar risks.
Altered Appetite and Weight
In placebo-controlled studies of major depressive disorder using the sustained-release formulation of bupropion, patients experienced weight gain or weight loss as shown in Table 3.
Table 3. Incidence of Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Placebo-Controlled
Trials of Sustained-release Formulation of Bupropion for Major Depressive Disorder
formulation of bupropion
(n = 339)
formulation of bupropion
(n = 112)
(n = 347)
|Gained > 5 lbs||3%||2%||4%|
|Lost > 5 lbs||14%||19%||6%|
In studies conducted with the immediate-release formulation of bupropion, 35% of patients receiving tricyclic antidepressants gained weight, compared to 9% of patients treated with the immediate-release formulation of bupropion. If weight loss is a major presenting sign of a patient's depressive illness, the anorectic and/or weight-reducing potential of BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be considered.
Anaphylactoid/anaphylactic reactions characterized by symptoms such as pruritus, urticaria, angioedema, and dyspnea requiring medical treatment have been reported in clinical trials with bupropion. In addition, there have been rare spontaneous postmarketing reports of erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and anaphylactic shock associated with bupropion. A patient should stop taking BUDEPRION XL™ and consult a doctor if experiencing allergic or anaphylactoid/anaphylactic reactions (e.g., skin rash, pruritus, hives, chest pain, edema, and shortness of breath) during treatment.
In clinical practice, hypertension, in some cases severe, requiring acute treatment, has been reported in patients receiving bupropion alone and in combination with nicotine replacement therapy. These events have been observed in both patients with and without evidence of preexisting hypertension.
Data from a comparative study of the sustained-release formulation of bupropion, nicotine transdermal system (NTS), the combination of sustained-release bupropion plus NTS, and placebo as an aid to smoking cessation suggest a higher incidence of treatment-emergent hypertension in patients treated with the combination of sustained-release bupropion and NTS. In this study, 6.1% of patients treated with the combination of sustained-release bupropion and NTS had treatment-emergent hypertension compared to 2.5%, 1.6%, and 3.1% of patients treated with sustained-release bupropion, NTS, and placebo, respectively. The majority of these patients had evidence of preexisting hypertension. Three patients (1.2%) treated with the combination of a ZYBAN® and NTS and 1 patient (0.4%) treated with NTS had study medication discontinued due to hypertension compared to none of the patients treated with a sustained-release formulation of bupropion or placebo. Monitoring of blood pressure is recommended in patients who receive the combination of bupropion and nicotine replacement.
There is no clinical experience establishing the safety of BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) in patients with a recent history of myocardial infarction or unstable heart disease. Therefore, care should be exercised if it is used in these groups. Bupropion was well tolerated in depressed patients who had previously developed orthostatic hypotension while receiving tricyclic antidepressants, and was also generally well tolerated in a group of 36 depressed inpatients with stable congestive heart failure (CHF). However, bupropion was associated with a rise in supine blood pressure in the study of patients with CHF, resulting in discontinuation of treatment in 2 patients for exacerbation of baseline hypertension.
BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be used with extreme caution in patients with severe hepatic cirrhosis. In these patients, a reduced frequency and/or dose is required. BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be used with caution in patients with hepatic impairment (including mild to moderate hepatic cirrhosis) and reduced frequency and/or dose should be considered in patients with mild to moderate hepatic cirrhosis.
All patients with hepatic impairment should be closely monitored for possible adverse effects that could indicate high drug and metabolite levels (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS, and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
There is limited information on the pharmacokinetics of bupropion in patients with renal impairment. An inter-study comparison between normal subjects and patients with end-stage renal failure demonstrated that the parent drug Cmax and AUC values were comparable in the 2 groups, whereas the hydroxybupropion and threohydrobupropion metabolites had a 2.3 and 2.8 fold increase, respectively, in AUC for patients with end-stage renal failure. Bupropion is extensively metabolized in the liver to active metabolites, which are further metabolized and subsequently excreted by the kidneys. BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) should be used with caution in patients with renal impairment and a reduced frequency and/or dose should be considered as bupropion and the metabolites of bupropion may accumulate in such patients to a greater extent than usual. The patient should be closely monitored for possible adverse effects that could indicate high drug or metabolite levels.
There are no specific laboratory tests recommended.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Lifetime carcinogenicity studies were performed in rats and mice at doses up to 300 and 150 mg/kg/day, respectively. These doses are approximately 7 and 2 times the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD), respectively, on a mg/m² basis. In the rat study there was an increase in nodular proliferative lesions of the liver at doses of 100 to 300 mg/kg/day (approximately 2 to 7 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis); lower doses were not tested. The question of whether or not such lesions may be precursors of neoplasms of the liver is currently unresolved. Similar liver lesions were not seen in the mouse study, and no increase in malignant tumors of the liver and other organs was seen in either study.
Bupropion produced a positive response (2 to 3 times control mutation rate) in 2 of 5 strains in the Ames bacterial mutagenicity test and an increase in chromosomal aberrations in 1 of 3 in vivo rat bone marrow cytogenetic studies. A fertility study in rats at doses up to 300 mg/kg/day revealed no evidence of impaired fertility.
Pregnancy category C
In studies conducted in rats and rabbits, bupropion was administered orally at doses up to 450 and 150 mg/kg/day, respectively (approximately 11 and 7 times the maximum recommended human dose [MRHD], respectively, on a mg/m² basis), during the period of organogenesis. No clear evidence of teratogenic activity was found in either species; however, in rabbits, slightly increased incidences of fetal malformations and skeletal variations were observed at the lowest dose tested (25 mg/kg/day, approximately equal to the MRHD on a mg/m²basis) and greater. Decreased fetal weights were seen at 50 mg/kg and greater. When rats were administered bupropion at oral doses of up to 300 mg/kg/day (approximately 7 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis) prior to mating and throughout pregnancy and lactation, there were no apparent adverse effects on offspring development.
One study has been conducted in pregnant women. This retrospective, managed-care database study assessed the risk of congenital malformations overall, and cardiovascular malformations specifically, following exposure to bupropion in the first trimester compared to the risk of these malformations following exposure to other antidepressants in the first trimester and bupropion outside of the first trimester. This study included 7,005 infants with antidepressant exposure during pregnancy, 1,213 of whom were exposed to bupropion in the first trimester. The study showed no greater risk for congenial malformations overall, or cardiovascular malformations specifically, following first trimester bupropion exposure compared to exposure to all other antidepressants in the first trimester, or bupropion outside of the first trimester. The results of this study have not been corroborated. BUDEPRION XL™ should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Labor and Delivery
The effect of BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) on labor and delivery in humans is unknown.
Like many other drugs, bupropion and its metabolites are secreted in human milk. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from BUDEPRION XL™ (bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets) , 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 have not been established (see BOXED WARNING and WARNINGS, Clinical Worsening and Suicide Risk). Anyone considering the use of BUDEPRION XL™ in a child or adolescent must balance the potential risks with the clinical need.
Of the approximately 6,000 patients who participated in clinical trials with bupropion sustained-release tablets (depression and smoking cessation studies), 275 were ≥ 65 years old and 47 were ≥ 75 years old. In addition, several hundred patients 65 and over participated in clinical trials using the immediate-release formulation of bupropion (depression studies). No overall differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between these subjects and younger subjects. Reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients, but greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out.
A single-dose pharmacokinetic study demonstrated that the disposition of bupropion and its metabolites in elderly subjects was similar to that of younger subjects; however, another pharmacokinetic study, single and multiple dose, has suggested that the elderly are at increased risk for accumulation of bupropion and its metabolites (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY).
Bupropion is extensively metabolized in the liver to active metabolites, which are further metabolized and excreted by the kidneys. The risk of toxic reaction to this drug may be greater in patients with impaired renal function. Because elderly patients are more likely to have decreased renal function, care should be taken in dose selection, and it may be useful to monitor renal function (see PRECAUTIONS, Renal Impairment and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Last reviewed on RxList: 8/8/2008
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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