FDA Approves Antidepressant That Might Pack Fewer Sexual Side Effects

FDA approves antidepressant that might pack fewer sexual side effects.

ByABC News
January 31, 2011, 2:10 PM

Feb. 2, 2011— -- While antidepressants help many people enjoy life once again, that enjoyment can come at the cost of one's sex life.

That's what's happened to 24-year-old Ana over the past year. Ana, who requested that her last name not be used to preserve her privacy, has been taking Cymbalta, an antidepressant that helps her cope with the struggles she's endured after a recent move to New York City.

"I'm feeling much better, and it's really been helping me with my panic attacks and depression," Ana said.

But "feeling better" has come at a price.

"I have the desire to have sex, but much less than I did before, and I don't enjoy it as much," she said.

Sexual side effects are a common complaint lodged against a number of antidepressant drugs, especially those in the group called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved another antidepressant, Viibryd, which holds the promise of having a less-adverse effect on the libido.

"In the two clinical studies done so far, there was no sign of sexual side effects," said Dr. Norman Sussman, a professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center.

Although Viibryd is technically an SSRI, it is a dual-action drug – it increases the body's level of serotonin – a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being – and also activates a serotonin receptor.

Experts believe it's the action on this serotonin receptor that helps reduce sexual side effects, although they're not sure exactly how.

Decreased sex drive, difficulty reaching orgasm and erectile dysfunction are among the complications associated with several other antidepressants on the market, such as Effexor, Celexa and Prozac, all SSRIs, but are much less common with another type of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors.