Venlafaxine: A novel antidepressant compound

E. Schweizer, R. J. Thielen, A. Frazer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Venlafaxine is a new antidepressant that inhibits the reuptake of both 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin; 5-HT) and noradrenaline (NA). It is somewhat more potent as an inhibitor of the reuptake of 5-HT than NA. Its potency to inhibit the reuptake of 5-HT is comparable to that of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as amitriptyline or imipramine, but it is less potent than these drugs at inhibiting the reuptake of NA. Consequently, at low doses, venlafaxine may be a more effective inhibitor of the reuptake of 5-HT than that of NA. The major metabolite of venlafaxine in humans, O-desmethylvenlafaxine, has comparable potency to the parent drug for inhibiting the reuptake of either NA or 5-HT in vitro, but it is less potent in vivo. Both venlafaxine and O-desmethylvenlafaxine are essentially devoid of activity at muscarinic cholinergic, H1 histaminergic, and β1-adrenoceptors. This probably accounts for venlafaxine having a side-effect profile similar to that of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) rather than that of TCAs. Venlafaxine is subject to extensive first-pass metabolism and is metabolised by the cytochrome P450 isoenzyme IID6 in the liver. The half-life of venlafaxine is 3 - 4 h and that of its principal metabolite is about 10 h. The daily dose of venlafaxine can be administered as either two or three divided doses without altering significantly the pharmacokinetics of venlafaxine. The most common side-effects of venlafaxine are nausea, sedation, dizziness, dry mouth and sweating, as well as sexual dysfunctions, primarily problems with erection and delayed ejaculation. In some patients, venlafaxine also causes sustained elevations in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure; this effect is dose-dependent. Venlafaxine is much safer in overdosage than the TCAs. Antidepressant efficacy of venlafaxine has been found both in out-patients and in-patients. In general, its efficacy is comparable to that of comparator drugs (primarily TCAs or SSRIs), and in some cases even greater, and its efficacy is greater than that measured with placebo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
JournalExpert Opinion on Investigational Drugs
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Antidepressants
  • Noradrenaline transporter
  • Serotonin transporter
  • Venlafaxine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


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