Earlier this month, the FDA approved Brintellix (vortioxetine), a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, for the treatment of depression, marketed by Lundbeck and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work by affecting neurotransmitters and their admittance into the brain. This alters the balance of serotonin in the brain, which can change the brain’s stress response and improve mood.
Six short-term, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies were conducted prior to the FDA’s approval. An additional study suggested that after patients were treated successfully with Brintellix, the chances of a recurrence of major depression were much lower. The drug has several additional mechanisms, but it is not yet understood exactly how they contribute to the drug’s efficacy.
Unlike many antidepressants, the common side effects of Brintellix seem to be generally limited to vomiting, constipation, and nausea. While none of those are pleasant, the three are small potatoes in comparison to the laundry list of nasty side effects for most antidepressants. A unique benefit of the drug is its apparent lack of sexual side effects, an unfortunate impact that plagues many depression sufferers.
Brintellix will be available in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, and 20 mg tablets. The drug bears the same “black box” warning about risk of increase in suicidal thoughts and behavior that most antidepressants share. Brintellix is only approved for use in adults, and young adults age 18-24 will be more vulnerable to the possible increase suicidal tendencies. While the mental health community has not yet seen Brintellix in action with many mentally ill individuals, it is always exciting when a new medicine is improved. Every patient is different, so we need the widest variety of drug options possible. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about Brintellix in the future.