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Antidepressants

Overview of the Dangers and Side Effects of Psychotropic Medications

By | ADHD Medications, Antianxiety Medications, Antidepressants, Antipsychotics, Pharmacogenetic Testing, Precision Medicine, Psychiatric Medications | No Comments

Get the Rxight® Genetic Test to Know Your Risks

Psychiatric medications (often called “psychotropics”) are routinely used to treat a variety of psychiatric disorders – ranging from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and depression to bipolar disorder and anxiety to schizophrenia – Psychiatric medications are generally jused as an adjunct to psychotherapy.

 
It is estimated that 17 percent (some 80 million people) in the United States are taking some form of psychiatric medication (Scientific American, “1 in 6 Americans Takes a Psychiatric Drug,”  Dec 13 2016) According to the article, an earlier government report, from 2011, found that just over 10% of adults are taking prescription drugs for “problems with emotions, nerves or mental health,” published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

 
While the potential benefits of psychotropic medications have been demonstrated in research and clinical practice for decades, patients are cautioned to remain vigilant of the many side effects of psychiatric medications.

 
This article presents a detailed summary of the major types of mental health medications and their associated risks for side effects as reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and an overview of the benefits of the Rxight® genetic test for psychiatric medications in identifying your unique genetically determined risk for developing side effects or non-response to dozens of these psychiatric medications along with hundreds of other medications across 50 pharmacological classes.

Antidepressant Side Effects

What are antidepressants?
Antidepressants are commonly used to treat depressive disorders. They also are used for other conditions, such as pain, anxiety and insomnia. Although antidepressants are not FDA-approved specifically to treat ADHD, they are sometimes used “off-label” for ADHD treatment.

The most commonly prescribed types of antidepressants today are called . Examples of SSRIs include:

Other types of antidepressants are serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) .These are chemically similar to SSRIs and include and duloxetine (Cymbalta)  and venlafaxine (Effexor).

 
Another antidepressant that is commonly used is bupropion – a third sub-class of antidepressant which acts differently than either SSRIs or SNRIs.  Bupropion is also used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and for smoking cessation treatment.

SSRIs, SNRIs, and bupropion are commonly used today because they do not cause as many side effects as the older (“first generation”) classes of antidepressants, and moreover are effective in treating a broader range of depressive and anxiety disorders.

 
Older antidepressant medications include tricyclic antidepressants, tetracyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).  These are less commonly prescribed since the development of the newer generation antidepressants.
 
What are the possible side effects of antidepressants?
Some antidepressants may cause more side effects than others. The most common side effects listed by the FDA include:

  • Sexual problems (impotence or inability to orgasm)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Diarrhea

In 2004, the FDA ordered a “black box” label – the most serious warning it issues – on all antidepressants to caution of psychiatric drugs’ increasing suicide risk in children and adolescents. In 2006, the FDA increased the age to include young adults up to age of 25. (FDA, Revision to Product Labeling, 2004)

 
Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms, especially if they are new, worsening, or worry you (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2011):

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • New or worsening depression
  • New or worsening anxiety
  • Feeling restless or agitated or
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • New or worsening irritability
  • Acting aggressively, being angry, or violent
  • Acting on dangerous impulses
  • An increase in activity and talking (mania)

Additionally, drug interactions can occur.  Specifically, combining the newer SSRI or SNRI antidepressants with one of the commonly-used “triptan” medications for treating migraines can cause a life-threatening condition called “serotonin syndrome.” Serotonin syndrome is marked by agitation, hallucinations, high temperature, or unusual blood pressure changes. Serotonin syndrome is usually associated with the older antidepressants called MAOIs, but it can happen with the newer antidepressants as well.

 
Antidepressants may cause other side effects that were not included in this list, as determined by individual genetics and ability to metabolize the drug in the liver.

 
How do patients respond to antidepressants?
Some people respond better to some antidepressant medications than to others.  It is critical to know that some people may not feel better with the first medicine they try. Additionally, sometimes people taking antidepressants feel better and stop taking the medication too soon, and the depression may return.

 
These inter-individual differences are based in genetics, and the Rxight® genetic test will indicate which antidepressants may not work for you right from the start instead of having to go through trial and error with your doctor  With Rxight results, you your doctor can work together to find the best and most effective antidepressant treatment tailored to your unique genetics.

 

Antipsychotic Side Effects

What are antipsychotics?
Antipsychotic medicines are primarily used to manage psychosis, a condition that affects the mind. Psychosis is characterized by some loss of contact with reality, often including or hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not really there), or delusions (false, fixed beliefs). It can also be a symptom of a physical condition such as drug abuse or a mental disorder such as schizophrenia, very severe depression (also known as “psychotic depression”), or bipolar disorder.

 
Antipsychotic medications are frequently used in combination with other drugs to treat delirium, dementia, and mental health conditions, including:

The older antipsychotic medications are conventionally referred to as “typical” antipsychotics or “neuroleptics”. Some of the common typical antipsychotics include:

Second generation antipsychotic medications are also called “atypical” antipsychotics. Some of the most common atypical antipsychotics are:

According to a 2013 research review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality , typical and atypical antipsychotics both work to treat of bipolar disorder (preventing mania) and symptoms of schizophrenia Additionally, some atypical antipsychotics have wider applications and are used for treating bipolar depression or general depression.

 
What are the possible side effects of antipsychotics?

Antipsychotics are known to have a large number of side effects (also called adverse events) and risks, including potentially fatal complications.

 
The FDA lists the following side effects of antipsychotic medicines:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Uncontrollable movements, such as tics and tremors (the risk is higher with typical antipsychotic medicines)
  • Seizures Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Restlessness
  • Weight gain (the risk is higher with some atypical antipsychotic medicines)
  • Dry mouth
  • A low number of white blood cells, which fight infections

Typical antipsychotic medications can also cause additional side effects related to physical movement, such as:

  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Rigidity
  • Muscle spasms

Long-term use of antipsychotic medications may lead to a condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD). Tardive dyskinesia causes uncontrolled muscle movements, commonly around the mouth. TD can range from mild to very severe, and in some people, the problem cannot be cured and becomes disfiguring.

 
Avoid the Risk of Antipsychotic Side Effects with Rxight®

The Rxight® medication panel includes 18 popular antipsychotics on the market. Because the potential side effects of both typical and atypical antipsychotics can be very serious and potentially fatal, knowing your risks ahead of time with Rxight® can be an invaluable test for you and your prescriber.

 

Mood Stabilizer Side Effects

What are mood stabilizers?
Mood stabilizers work by decreasing abnormal brain activity. They are used mainly to treat bipolar disorder and the mood swings associated with other mental conditions including:

  • Depression (usually in conjunction with an antidepressant)
  • Disorders of impulse control
  • Schizoaffective Disorder

Anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) medications are most frequently used as mood stabilizers. They were originally developed for treatment of seizures, but they were found to help control mood swings as well. One anticonvulsant commonly used as a mood stabilizer especially in patients with symptoms of both mania and depression, or those with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, is valproic acid (sold as Depakote). Anticonvulsants used as mood stabilizers include:

Lithium is a non-anticonvulsant mood stabilizer approved for the treatment of mania and the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder.

 
What are the potential side effects of mood stabilizers?

Mood stabilizers can cause several side effects, some of which may be serious, especially at high dosages. These side effects include:

  • Potentially fatal rash (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome)
  • Itching
  • Extreme thirst
  • Tremor
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • Slurred speech
  • Blackouts
  • Changes in vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of coordination
  • Swelling

Mood stabilizers may cause other side effects that are not included in this list. Your unique reaction to anticonvulsants is based in genetics, and the Rxight® genetic test will indicate which mood stabilizer not work for you may right from the start instead of having to go through trial and error with your doctor – a process which can be expensive, lengthy and dangerous.  With Rxight® results, you your doctor can work together to find the best and most effective antidepressant treatment tailored to your genotype, preferably before treatment begins.

 

Anti-Anxiety Medication Side Effects

What are anti-anxiety medications?
Anti-anxiety medications (also called “anxiolytics”) work by reducing the symptoms of anxiety, such as that seen in panic attacks, or extreme worry and fear. The most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications are called “benzodiazepines.” Benzodiazepines are most frequently used to treat a condition called generalized anxiety disorder, while in cases of social phobia (social anxiety disorder) or panic disorder (panic attacks). Benzodiazepines are usually second-line treatments, behind antidepressants such as SSRIS.

Benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety disorders – all of which are tested in the Rxight® panel – include:

Short-acting benzodiazepines such as Lorazepam and another class of medication known as beta-blockers are used to treat non-persistent symptoms of anxiety. Beta-blockers are used primarily to manage physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g., shaking, rapid heartrate, and sweating).

 
Buspirone  (which is chemically unrelated to the benzodiazepine family) is sometimes indicated for the long-term treatment of chronic anxiety. It is not effective to use on an “as-needed” basis like the benzodiazepines.

 
How common is addiction to benzodiazepines?
One of the serious risks of anti-anxiety medications is that you can build up a tolerance to benzodiazepines if they are taken over a long period of time and may need increasingly higher doses to get the same effect. There is a serious risk of addiction and dependence. To avoid these problems, doctors usually prescribe benzodiazepines for short periods, particularly in the elderly (NIMH, “Despite Risks, Benzodiazepine Use Highest in Older People”), and people with addiction tendencies. If people suddenly stop taking benzodiazepines, they may have withdrawal symptoms or their anxiety may return.

 
What are the possible side effects of anti-anxiety medications?
Like other medications, anti-anxiety medications may cause side effects, many of which are serious. The most common side effects of benzodiazepines are sleepiness and dizziness. Other possible side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Nightmares

Tell your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty thinking or remembering
  • Increased saliva
  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Problems with coordination
  • Blurred vision

If you experience any of the symptoms below, call your doctor immediately:

  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Hoarseness
  • Seizures
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Depression
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty breathing

Common side effects of beta-blockers include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Cold hands

 

Stimulant Side Effects

What are Stimulants?
Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Stimulant medications are generally prescribed to treat individuals diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). People with ADHD who take prescription stimulants describe a calming and “focusing” effect from the medication.  This is due to its effects on the brain chemical dopamine.

Stimulants used to treat ADHD – all of which are analyzed in the Rxight® DNA test – include:

In 2002, the FDA approved non-stimulant medication atomoxetine (Strattera) for use as a treatment for ADHD. Additional non-stimulant antihypertensive medications, clonidine  and guanfacine, are also approved for treatment of ADHD.

In addition to treating ADHD, stimulants are prescribed to treat other health conditions, including narcolepsy, and occasionally depression.

 
What are the possible side effects of stimulants?
Stimulants may cause side effects, most of which are relatively minor and disappear when dosage levels are lowered. The most common side effects include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache

Less common side effects include:

  • Motor tics or verbal tics
  • Personality changes

What are serious side effects of stimulant medications?
While side effects of stimulant medications tend to be minimal, patients and parents of patients are cautioned that serious adverse effects may occur, as reported by the FDA Drug Safety Communication in 2013. Also see
FDA Warns of Psychiatric Adverse Events from ADHD Medications
.

 
Heart-related problems:

  • Sudden death in patients who have heart problems or heart defects
  • Stroke
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate

Mental (Psychiatric) problems:

  • Behavior and thought problems
  • New or worse aggressive behavior or hostility
  • New or worse bipolar illness
  • New psychotic symptoms (or new manic symptoms)
  • Physical or psychological dependence

For additional details on the FDA warnings and manufacturer labeling for medications covered in the Rxight® panel, please refer to our list of medications covered.

 

About Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Testing

The Rxight® genetic test analyzes your risks based on your unique genetic makeup through a process called “SNP genotyping.” The report which will be shared with you in a personal consultation with a pharmacist. The report “red-flags” medications which may cause you to have issues, or conversely highlight medications which may not be effective for you.

 
Rxight® is based on pharmacogenetics — the study of how genes affect a person’s response to medicines. Our panel of over 200 clinically significant medications includes dozens of commonly prescribed psychiatric medications, including antidepressants across five sub-classes, mood stabilizers used in bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder, antipsychotics, ADHD medications (stimulant and non-stimulant), and anti-anxiety medications.

 
Based on how well you metabolize those particular medications, which is determined by your genes that encode liver enzymes that break down drugs, you will be at risk for developing side effects or the medication not working well or at all. With the results of the Rxight® test you and your prescriber can find the right medication for you, preferably before treatment begins.

 
Contact us today by phone 1 (888) 888-1932 or email to learn more about how Rxight® pharmacogenetic testing can help you find the right medication, right from the start.

Co-Occuring Autism and Depression: A Clinical Challenge

By | Antidepressants, Antipsychotics | No Comments

Is depression more common in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than in the general population? Yes, according to research on the co-morbidity of mood disorders and ASD – which according to the CDC affects an estimated 1 in 45 children in the U.S.
 
An article published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, “Challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of depression in autism spectrum disorders across the lifespan” (2015), found that some research points to rates of depression as high as 57 percent in ASD patients. One study of adult patients found the rate of suicide of ASD adults was almost 2 percent, compared to less than.5 percent of adults without autism.
 

Clinicians Face Difficulties Differentiating between Depression and ASD

 
It can be difficult to differentiate between symptoms of autism and those of depression. In fact, diagnosing depression in those with autism represents a clinical challenge that dates back to Leo Kanner’s original description of the condition in his 1943 paper where he identified that individuals with autism spectrum disorders show little facial emotion – called a “flat affect.” However, in autism, affect doesn’t necessarily correspond to the individuals’ mood, which is an internal state not always congruent with emotion.
 
Another challenge that clinicians face in diagnosing depression in patients with autism is the overlap in symptoms. Those of depression typically include a flat facial expression as with autism, reduced appetite, sleep disturbance, low energy, reduced motivation, social withdrawal and reduced desire to communicate with others. Many of these same symptoms can stem from autism rather than depression.
 

Find the Right Medications with Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Testing

 
Two drugs for treating the irritability and aggression that is commonly associated with the autism – risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) – have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Additionally, so-called “off-label” medications include naltrexone, which is FDA-approved for the treatment of alcohol and opioid addictions. It can ease disabling repetitive and self-injurious behaviors. (Autism Speaks, “Medicines for Treating Autism’s Core Symptoms”).
 
MD Labs’ CLIA-certified Rxight® genetic testing panel – which among the most comprehensive available – includes risperidone and aripiprazole, along with 26 antidepressant medications across clinically significant antidepressant classes. Over 200 other medication are also covered in the Rxight® panel.
 

Your Insurance May Cover Testing with Rxight®

 
Many insurance companies now cover tetrabenazine (Xenazine), nortriptyline (branded as Pamelor and Aventyl Hydrochloride) and amitriptyline (branded as Elavil, Endep and Vanatrip), antidepressants within the Rxight® panel.
 
If you or a loved one suffers from depression and has been diagnosed with ASD as well, ask your doctor about authorizing the Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Test. Genetic testing with Rxight® enables you and your prescribers to know – preferably ahead of time – which medications may causes potentially dangerous adverse reactions and conversely which may be ineffective.
 
To get started, we invite you to email us today or call 1-888-888-1932 to discover how you may benefit from our pharmacogenetic testing program.

Pharmacogenetic Testing Could Help Reduce Side Effects Caused by Commonly Prescribed Diabetes Medication

By | Antidepressants, Diabetes | No Comments

Diabetes is a serious public health issue, and is projected to be the seventh leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. In the sub-Saharan African region, it is estimated that nearly 1 in 10 people suffer from diabetes, according to the World Health Organization Global Report on Diabetes (WHO, 2016). In the United States, we see similar statistics. The CDC reported in 2014 that nearly 1 in every 11 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes, accounting for nearly 29.1 million people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report).
 
Complications can arise in those with diabetes and therefore, proper medication therapy is crucial.
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN) is the most common complication of diabetes and occurs in up to half of diabetic patients, according to a recent study in Pharmacogenomics (Chaudhry et al., April 2017).

 
The most common symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are increased pain sensitivity, numbness and spontaneous pain in the limbs. Patients frequently describe the pain as burning and shooting.
 

Amitriptyline: The Drug of Choice for DPN in Developing Countries

 
Since there are currently no treatments available to completely restore nerve function, drug therapy is often aimed at managing the pain. Antidepressants in particular, specifically amitriptyline, are often used to treat DPN.
 
This Pharmacogenomics study investigated the use of amitriptyline for DPN in a South African population. Amitriptyline is used to treat the DPN pain due to its numbing effect on the nerves. It is regarded as the drug of choice to for painful peripheral neuropathy in this population given its cost effectiveness.
 

Genetics Influence How You’ll React to Medications

 
Common side effects of amitriptyline include blurred vision, drowsiness, constipation, urinary retention and dryness of mouth/eyes. More serious side effects include build-up of metabolic toxins in the heart or the nervous system.
 
Genetics play a major role in how the body metabolizes medications. Amitriptyline is mainly metabolized in the liver and cleared by the kidneys. How one’s body metabolizes this medication in encoded by two specific genes and one of these genes is responsible for adverse drug reactions (ADRs).
 
In the case of amitriptyline, patients who are “slow metabolizers” will experience adverse reactions. Patients who are “fast metabolizers” do not experience these adverse reactions. However, since these fast metabolizers clear the drug from their bodies so quickly, they are at risk for not benefiting from treatment.
 

Study Calls for Pharmacogenetic Screening in Amitriptyline Therapy

 
The study concluded that pharmacogenetic testing might be useful for tailoring treatment and thereby improving amitriptyline effectiveness. Chaudhry et al. noted that if a patient is a non-responder to amitriptyline, or experiences severe side effects, pre-emptive genetic screening can be performed so an alternative medication may be considered, or the dose adjusted appropriately.
 
“Our findings…support the use of pharmacogenetic testing in the context of amitriptyline therapy for the management of diabetic pain,” the authors stated, adding that PGx testing can be “valuable to guide drug choice and dosage and thereby improve treatment outcomes in patients with DPN.”

ADHD or Depression? It Could be Both

By | ADHD Medications, Antidepressants, Psychiatric Medications | No Comments

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological condition that is marked by difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, irritability and forgetfulness. More than 1 in 10 children in the U.S. and four percent of adults are diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
 

Depression Disproportionately Affects ADHD Patients

 
Some children and adults with ADHD also experience depression according to the University of Chicago. Numerous studies also highlight that adolescents with ADHD are ten times more likely to experience depression than adolescents without ADHD.
 
The symptoms of ADHD and depression often overlap. Depression is a neuropsychiatric condition marked by a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest. Patients with depression can experience a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in self-esteem, sleep, appetite, energy level, and concentration.
 

Is there a Causal Link between ADHD and Depression?

 
Environmental and psychosocial factors may contribute to children with ADHD experiencing depression. Children with ADHD are often overly active, which can lead to poor performance in school, difficulties in social situations, and loss of confidence and self-esteem.
 
According to the findings in the journal Lancet Psychiatry published online on Feb 15, 2017, recent brain imaging studies show that the brain structures of children with ADHD differ in small but significant ways from the brains of children without ADHD.
 
These brain scans revealed that five brain regions were slightly smaller in people with ADHD, including three brain areas within a part of the brain called the striatum ― the caudate nucleus, the putamen and the nucleus accumbens.
 
Patients with depression experience structural changes as well. Imaging studies of the brain structure have shown smaller hippocampal volume with the chronicity of depression correlating to a reduction in volume – a finding also seen in ADHD patients as discussed in CNS Spectrums “Structural changes in the brain in depression and relationship to symptom recurrence” (Feb 2002).

 
The structures within a section of the brain known as the striatum are involved in the brain’s reward system as well as its processing of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control motivation and pleasure. Dopamine signaling abnormalities and brain structure differences are also present in depression (Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences )
 

Find the Right Medications with Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Testing

 
Medications for patients with both ADHD and depression include stimulants and various classes of antidepressants, which affect dopaminergic and serotonergic signaling pathways in the brain. (Psychiatry, Major Depression with ADHD, Apr 2006)

 
MD Labs’ CLIA-certified Rxight® genetic testing panel is among the most comprehensive available. Its panel includes six commonly prescribed stimulant and non-stimulant ADHD medications, and 26 antidepressant medications across clinically significant antidepressant classes. Over 200 other medication are also tested, and the results are good for life since your genetics don’t change.
 

Your Insurance May Cover Testing with Rxight®

 
Many insurance companies now cover Tetrabenazine (Xenazine), Nortriptyline (branded as Pamelor and Aventyl Hydrochloride) and Amitriptyline (branded as Elavil, Endep and Vanatrip), antidepressants within the Rxight® panel.
 
If you have ADHD and suffer from depression as well, ask your doctor about authorizing the Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Test. Genetic testing with Rxight® enables you and your prescribers to know – preferably ahead of time – which medications may causes potentially dangerous adverse reactions and conversely which may be ineffective.
 
To get started, we invite you to email us today or call 1-888-888-1932 to discover how you may benefit from our pharmacogenetic testing program.

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