GENERIC NAME: venlafaxine
BRAND NAME: Effexor XR
DISCONTINUED BRAND: Effexor, in the US
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Venlafaxine is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) used for treating depression. Other drugs in this class include milnacipran (Savella), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq). Venlafaxine affects neurotransmitters, the chemicals that nerves within the brain make and release in order to communicate with one another. Neurotransmitters either travel across the space between nerves, attach to receptors on the surface of nearby nerves, or they attach to receptors on the surface of the nerves that produced them, to be taken up by the nerve and released again (a process referred to as re-uptake).
Many experts believe that an imbalance among neurotransmitters is the cause of depression as well as other psychiatric disorders. Serotonin and norepinephrine are two neurotransmitters released by nerves in the brain. Venlafaxine works by preventing the reuptake of serotonin and epinephrine by nerves after they have been released. Since uptake is an important mechanism for removing released neurotransmitters and terminating their actions on adjacent nerves, the reduced uptake caused by venlafaxine increases the effect of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Venlafaxine is available in an extended release formulation (Effexor XR). The FDA approved venlafaxine in December 1993.
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