Effexor, also known as Venlafaxine, is intended for treating major depressive disorders (MDDs) and generalized anxiety disorders (GADs). In 2007, Effexor was the sixth most commonly used antidepressant in the United States (17.2 million prescriptions).

Effexor was first introduced by Wyeth pharmaceuticals in 1993 and subsequently marketed by Wyeth until 2009 when Wyeth was purchased by Pfizer.

Significant Adverse Risks

Patients on Effexor may suffer from a potentially life-threatening adverse drug reaction called serotonin toxicity, often referred to as serotonin syndrome. This is typically caused when Effexor is taken in combination with other drugs such as: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac and Paxil, tryptamines and phenethylamines, most commonly found in hallucinogens such as LSD/LSA, DMT, MDMA, MDPV, and mescaline (found in peyote), Dextromethorphan (DMO) and Dextrorphan (DXO)--both are common cough suppressants.

Patients are encouraged to consult with their doctor about serotonin syndrome as many common anti-depressants may trigger this syndrome. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Dramatic changes in mental and perceptual states
  • Instability of heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Circulatory problems
  • Over responsive reflexes
  • Uncoordinated muscular movements
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort

Serotonin syndrome has even been reported in patients with mild to low dosages of Effexor, so patients experiencing any of these problems should contact their physician immediately.

A second adverse reaction in patients who discontinue use of Effexor is known as SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome, commonly called SSRI withdrawal. The symptoms of SSRI withdrawal can be very broad and non-specific, thus patients discontinuing Effexor should consult with their doctor about possible symptoms and are encouraged to have regular checkups with their doctor as soon as treatment is stopped up until it has been confirmed that the drug has fully left their body.

Side Effects

  • Effexor should not be prescribed for children and adolescents as it may increase suicidal thoughts, attempts at self harm, and similar behaviors.
  • Effexor should not be taken with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). And at least 14 days should be allowed between the use of Effexor and MAOIs.
  • Effexor can cause a rise in eye pressure and patients suffering from Glaucoma should have their eyes checked frequently while on this drug.
  • Common side effects include: headache, nausea, insomnia, dry mouth, dizziness, sweating, decreased appetite, constipation, sexual dysfunction including impotence, abnormal ejaculation, difficulty reaching orgasm, and decreased sexual desire.

Effexor Claims and Lawsuits

Some claims have been made that Wyeth exaggerated and/or misrepresented the safety and effectiveness of Effexor. Most claims of the drug being dangerous are in regard to the drug's tendency to increase suicidal thoughts or lead to self harm. It has also been claimed that, in some persons, Effexor can increase violent behavior not only to self but to others. The family of drugs to which Effexor belongs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have anecdotally been implicated in several violent occurrences, however, claimants have failed to prove such case in a court of law.

Effexor, as well as other common antidepressants, have been claimed to cause birth defects, though, as in the case with violent behavior lawsuits, Effexor has not been found legally as the cause.

Getting Legal Help

Anyone who feels they have experienced side effects, harm, or otherwise grievances beyond the bounds of normal side effects are encouraged to contact an attorney, specifically an attorney specializing in product liability or dangerous drugs.

Before retaining a lawyer, collect as much information about the patient's suffering and damages as possible. Documenting symptoms, duration of the patient's use of Effexor and side effects are important to determine the strength of a case.