Pristiq vs Effexor

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For patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) or other forms of depression, certain medications that modify the concentrations of substances in the brain linked to mood, known as neurotransmitters, can aid in stabilizing depressive lows and managing symptoms. Pristiq and Effexor are two such drugs often prescribed for these conditions. They each affect different neurotransmitters within the brain but both have a significant impact on reducing depressive symptoms. Pristiq is classified as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), modulating levels of serotonin and norepinephrine primarily. Effexor also belongs to the SNRI class but it’s known for its unique ability to affect dopamine at higher doses, providing an additional therapeutic aspect.

What is Pristiq?

Desvenlafaxine (the generic name for Pristiq) is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), marking a development in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders from earlier classes of antidepressants. Desvenlafaxine was first approved by the FDA in 2008. Pristiq works to increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by inhibiting their reabsorption, effectively increasing their availability within neuronal synapses. It is prescribed primarily for major depressive disorder but can also be used off-label for other anxiety-related conditions.

On the other hand, Venlafaxine (the generic name for Effexor) is another SNRI medication that has been available since 1993 and shares many similarities with desvenlafaxine. Both medications work on similar neurotransmitters, however venlafaxine additionally influences dopamine as well as serotonin and norepinephrine leading to potential differences in side effects compared to desvenlafaxine which only selectively influences serotonin and norepinephrine.

What conditions is Pristiq approved to treat?

Pristiq has been approved for the management of varied depressive conditions, which include:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Social anxiety disorder

On the other hand, Effexor is used to manage a broader range of mental health disorders and symptoms:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

How does Pristiq help with these illnesses?

Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) helps to manage depression by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine available in the synapses of the brain. It does this by inhibiting their reabsorption into neurons, so levels can be maintained higher for longer periods of time. Both serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters, chemicals that act as messengers in the brain and throughout the body, that play important roles in mood regulation, cognition, memory, sleep patterns amongst other things. It is thought that individuals with depression have relatively lower levels of these neurotransmitters. Therefore, by increasing both serotonin and norepinephrine, Pristiq can limit the negative effects of depression and help patients manage their condition and stabilize their mood.

What is Effexor?

Effexor, whose generic name is venlafaxine, is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). This means that it works by increasing the levels of two important neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin and norepinephrine. It manages this increase by reducing their reabsorption back into the cells that released them. Effexor was first approved for use by the FDA in 1993.

As an SNRI, Effexor differs from SSRIs because it does not solely focus on inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin. Instead, its action also includes norepinephrine which can be beneficial in treating certain types of depression, especially those unresponsive to typical SSRI treatments or presenting with concurrent anxiety disorders.

However, as with all medications, Effexor carries potential side effects including nausea and sexual dysfunction but these are generally less common than with many other antidepressants such as Pristiq. Its broader mechanism of action may also result in increased energy levels and alertness when compared to other drugs used for similar conditions.

What conditions is Effexor approved to treat?

Effexor (venlafaxine) has received approval from the FDA for the treatment of several mental health disorders in the United States, including:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

These wide-ranging approvals make Effexor a versatile option for many individuals struggling with these conditions.

How does Effexor help with these illnesses?

Venlafaxine, commonly known as Effexor, operates by influencing the levels of two neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals are involved in regulating mood, memory recall, mental focus and alertness. They also play a part in how our bodies respond to stress or danger—the "fight or flight" response. Lowered levels of these neurotransmitters have been linked to depression; hence increasing their availability can help alleviate depressive symptoms. Effexor's mechanism is different from many standard SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac which only affect serotonin - it belongs to a class called SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors). This dual action makes it effective for those who haven't responded well to SSRIs alone or may be used alongside them if needed. Pristiq is another medication that works similarly but has slight variations in its chemical structure.

How effective are both Pristiq and Effexor?

Both desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) and venlafaxine (Effexor) are effective antidepressants that belong to the class of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and they were approved by the FDA in 2008 and 1993 respectively. Given their similar mechanisms, they could be prescribed under comparable circumstances. A direct comparative study between these two drugs is limited; however, both have demonstrated efficacy in treating major depressive disorder.

A meta-analysis conducted on desvenlafaxine's effectiveness showed significant improvement in depression symptoms from the first week of treatment, with a side effect profile like other SNRIs. The standard dose for optimal efficacy appears to be around 50 mg/day, which beyond alleviating depressive symptoms also seems to improve certain associated physical symptoms such as sleep disturbance.

Venlafaxine has an established history of success in treating depression and anxiety disorders. It has been shown to be more effective than placebo and comparably effective to other commonly used antidepressants according to a 2016 review and meta-analysis. As it can raise blood pressure at higher doses, it is generally considered only after SSRIs or at lower doses initially. Data confirms its efficacy as standalone treatment but co-prescription alongside another medication like mirtazapine may often provide additional benefits especially when initial SSRI treatment fails or isn't well-tolerated due its adverse effects such as sexual dysfunction or weight gain.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Pristiq typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Pristiq typically start at 50 mg/day for adults with major depressive disorder, and studies suggest this dosage is effective for many people. Adolescents aged 12-17 years may be started on a lower dose. The dosage can be increased after several weeks if there is no response. However, the maximum recommended daily dose of Pristiq should not exceed 400mg/day. Similarly, oral doses of Effexor range from 37.5 -225 mg/day depending upon individual patient responses but usually start at a lower end of the scale before being gradually increased by healthcare professionals monitoring progress closely over time to avoid any potential side effects.

At what dose is Effexor typically prescribed?

Effexor treatment is typically initiated at a dosage of 75 mg/day, taken as one dose with food. Depending on the patient's response and tolerance to the drug, this can be increased up to a maximum of 225 mg/day. For some conditions including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), your doctor may start you off at a lower dose of around 37.5 mg/day, which could also potentially increase over time based on how well it's working and what side effects you might have. The amount must be adjusted gradually in increments no greater than 75 mg per day, spaced out across two or three smaller doses throughout the day; for example, morning and night if two doses are prescribed or morning, midday and night if three doses are suggested by the healthcare professional. This gradual adjustment helps minimize potential side effects that can occur when starting or changing dosages rapidly.

What are the most common side effects for Pristiq?

Common side effects of Pristiq include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness, tiredness or weakness (asthenia)
  • Insomnia or somnolence (sleepiness/drowsiness)
  • Decreased appetite (anorexia)
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Tremor (unintentional trembling or shaking)
  • Changes in sexual desire or ability (decreased libido, abnormal ejaculation, impotence)
  • Increased blood pressure

Compared to Effexor, patients taking Pristiq may be less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation due to its longer half-life. However individual reactions can vary greatly so it's crucial for patients not to discontinue either medication without discussing with their healthcare provider first.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Pristiq?

While both Pristiq and Effexor are generally well-tolerated, they can cause some serious side effects in rare cases. These may include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts: This is particularly common during the first few weeks of treatment or when dosages are adjusted.
  • Allergic reactions: Symptoms might involve hives, difficulty breathing, swelling in your face or throat. In severe cases, it could lead to a potentially life-threatening skin reaction that includes fever and blistering/peeling skin.
  • Vision problems: Blurred vision or tunnel vision can occur; consult a doctor if you experience eye pain/swelling or see halos around lights.
  • Heart issues: Fast/pounding heartbeats, chest fluttering, shortness of breath and sudden dizziness could signify a cardiac problem; seek immediate medical help if these symptoms occur.
  • Hyponatremia (low sodium levels): Headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness/vomiting/loss of coordination/unsteadiness could indicate low sodium levels.
  • Severe nervous system reaction: High fever sweating/confusion/fast uneven heartbeat/tremors/stiff muscles - indicative of possible neuroleptic malignant syndrome which requires urgent medical attention -Serotonin Syndrome: Agitation/hallucinations/fever/sweating/shivering/fast heart rate/muscle stiffness/twitching/loss of coordination/diarrhea – this condition is potentially life threatening.

Remember that any change in dosage should be done under the supervision of your healthcare provider as abrupt stoppage can lead to withdrawal symptoms like irritability/agitation/dizziness/electric shock sensations/anxiety.

What are the most common side effects for Effexor?

Common side effects of Effexor (venlafaxine) include:

  • Dry mouth, sore throat
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or discomfort, constipation
  • Sleep problems such as insomnia or abnormal dreams
  • Sweating excessively, feeling nervous or anxious
  • Increased heart rate
  • Possible changes in mood including confusion and agitation
  • Mild skin rash or itching
  • Changes in appetite leading to weight loss or gain -Increased frequency of urination
    -Persistent headache and dizziness -Muscle stiffness or joint pain.

Remember to always consult your healthcare provider about any symptoms you experience while taking medication. The potential benefits must outweigh the risks when deciding on a certain drug treatment plan.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Effexor?

Despite the benefits of Effexor, it is important to be aware that this medication has been associated with several significant side effects. If you are taking Effexor and begin to experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, itching, fever, swollen glands
  • Trouble breathing or swelling in your face or throat
  • Skin changes like a red rash that may blister and peel
  • Changes in mood or behavior that include thoughts about suicide or dying; attempts to commit suicide; new or worse depression; new anxiety or panic attacks; feeling agitated, restless, angry, irritable or aggressive
  • Unusual problems with coordination and balance leading to blurred vision
  • A rapid change in heart rate causing chest discomfort
  • Experiencing seizures (convulsions)
  • Hallucinations (seeing things) and delusions (believing things that are not true), especially if you also have a high fever

Remember: While this list can guide you on potential side effects from Effexor use, always consult your healthcare provider for comprehensive medical advice.

Contraindications for Pristiq and Effexor?

Both Pristiq and Effexor, like many other antidepressant medications, may exacerbate symptoms of depression in certain individuals. If you observe a worsening of your depression or an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior after starting either medication, seek immediate medical help.

Neither Pristiq nor Effexor should be taken if you are using, or have recently used monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. Always disclose to your doctor all the medications you are currently taking; MAOIs will require approximately 5 weeks to clear from your system before initiating treatment with Pristiq or Effexor to prevent harmful interactions.

How much do Pristiq and Effexor cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 30 tablets of Pristiq (50 mg) averages around $350, which works out to approximately $11.67/day.
  • The cost for a similar supply of Effexor XR (75 mg), is about $220, working out to roughly $7.33/day.

Thus, if you are taking an average dosage range for Effexor (i.e., 150 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Pristiq may be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. However, it's important to remember that cost should not be your primary consideration in determining which drug is right for you.

For the generic versions of Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) and Effexor (venlafaxine), costs are significantly lower:

  • Desvenlafaxine is available in packs ranging from 30 to 90 tablets with approximate costs between $1 and $2 per day depending on your dose.
  • Venlafaxine comes in packs ranging from 15 up to several hundred capsules at a much lower cost starting as low as $0.20/day and typically not exceeding about $0.70/day if purchased in larger quantities upfront.

Popularity of Pristiq and Effexor

Desvenlafaxine, commonly known by the brand name Pristiq, was prescribed to approximately 3 million people in the United States in 2020. This accounted for around 6% of all prescriptions for antidepressants classified as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). As a relatively new drug on the market (having been FDA approved in 2008), desvenlafaxine has seen a steady rise in usage over recent years.

Venlafaxine, often recognized under its brand name Effexor, was prescribed to nearly 15.5 million Americans in that same year. Accounting for about 32% of SNRI prescriptions and just under 13% of overall antidepressant prescriptions within the USA, it is clear venlafaxine maintains strong popularity among healthcare providers and patients alike. Its prevalence has remained fairly consistent over the past decade despite newer medication introductions into market.


Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) and Effexor (venlafaxine) are both effective options for the treatment of major depressive disorder, backed by extensive clinical research demonstrating their efficacy over placebo treatments. Both drugs belong to a class of antidepressants known as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). They may be used in combination under certain circumstances, but this should always be at the discretion of a healthcare provider due to potential drug interactions.

Pristiq is essentially an active metabolite of Effexor, meaning that once in your body, Effexor breaks down into Pristiq and other compounds. Due to their close relationship and similar mechanisms of action - primarily acting on serotonin and norepinephrine - they tend to be prescribed interchangeably or depending on individual patient characteristics such as side effect tolerance or response to therapy.

Both medications come in generic form which can help patients save money if they're paying out-of-pocket. It's worth noting though that it might take some time before the full benefits are felt with either medication.

The side effects between these two drugs overlap largely since they work similarly; common ones include nausea, dry mouth, sweating and sexual dysfunction. However, each person's reaction can vary so monitoring one's symptoms closely when starting treatment is essential. If there's any worsening depression or emerging suicidal thoughts while on either medication immediate medical intervention should be sought.