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Could Painkillers Reduce Effexor's Effectiveness?

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New York, NYAlthough some people are concerned about the risk of Effexor side effects, including a reported increased risk of Effexor birth defects, many people do not question whether or not antidepressants such as Effexor are effective. Some studies, however, suggest that antidepressant medications are only slightly better than a placebo at treating depression, while other studies suggest that taking various medicines at once lowers the effectiveness of the antidepressants. All this makes it more difficult to determine whether the risks of Effexor side effects are worth the benefits.

A recent study conducted by researchers at The Rockefeller University suggests that painkillers, including aspirin and ibuprofen, can decrease the effectiveness of some antidepressant medications. The study, as reported by MSNBC (04/26/11), examined the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Researchers did not determine how much of the painkillers were required to counteract the effectiveness of the antidepressants. For example, a patient may take one painkiller every few weeks for a headache, compared with some people who use anti-inflammatory medications daily to deal with chronic pain.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (04/20/11), the study involved testing mice by giving them an SSRI and an anti-inflammatory drug before evaluating their performance on certain mobility tests. Researchers found that when the mice were given only an antidepressant, they scored significantly higher in the mobility test, but when they were given an anti-inflammatory as well, their mobility score dropped.

Following that, researchers looked at results of the STAR*D study, which asked participants to report their use of anti-inflammatory medications. Researchers noted that SSRIs were approximately 55 percent effective in the group of people who did not take anti-inflammatory drugs, but only 40 percent effective among patients who did take anti-inflammatory medications.

The results suggest that the use of anti-inflammatory medications while taking an SSRI could decrease the effectiveness of the SSRI. Researchers concluded that physicians should weigh the benefits of anti-inflammatory medications against the risks of their possible counteractive effects on antidepressants.

Effexor, however, is not in the SSRI medication class, although it is a similar drug. Effexor is in a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). It is similar to SSRIs in that it affects levels of serotonin in the patient's brain, but it also affects levels of norepinephrine. Whether or not an anti-inflammatory medication has the same effect on SNRI medications as it has on SSRI medications remains to be seen.

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