Antidepressant patch Emsam approved by FDA

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Antidepressant patch Emsam approved by FDA

Antidepressant patch wins FDA approval to treat depression.

What happened: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a skin patch to treat depression in adults. The antidepressant medication, called Emsam, is the first skin (transdermal) patch for depression.

Known generically as selegiline, Emsam belongs to a class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). At its lowest dose, Emsam may offer a way around the strict dietary requirements needed when using oral MAOIs.

You apply a new Emsam patch to your torso, thigh or upper arm each day, allowing the medication to be absorbed into your bloodstream over a 24-hour period. Precisely how MAOIs such as Emsam work isn't fully known. Researchers believe that MAOIs, including Emsam, relieve depression by maintaining high levels of certain mood-enhancing chemicals in your brain.

Emsam is not approved for use in children ages 17 or younger.

What does this mean to you? For some adults, Emsam provides more depression treatment options because at its lowest dose you can use it without the dietary restrictions needed with all oral MAOIs.

MAOIs can cause potentially life-threatening interactions with foods, even common cheeses and luncheon meats. Because of these problems, doctors typically prescribe MAOIs only after trying other antidepressant medications first.

At the lowest dose of the Emsam antidepressant patch — 6 milligrams (mg) daily — there are no dietary restrictions. That may give some people more flexibility in their depression treatment options.

Higher doses of the patch — 9 mg and 12 mg — do pose the same dietary risks as other MAOIs. If you take either of those higher daily doses of Emsam, you must follow the same dietary restrictions as with oral MAOIs.

Like other MAOIs, Emsam has other side effects, as well. And like all other antidepressants, it must carry a warning that its use may be associated with worsening suicidal thoughts and other depression symptoms.

Because of the numerous side effects and interactions, it's not appropriate for everyone. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider to see if Emsam may be right for you.

Last Updated: 03/01/2006
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