Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Depression Health Center

Font Size

Which Antidepression Drug Is Best?

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

April 30, 2002 -- Effexor seems to work better than the most popular type of antidepressant, say British researchers who pooled data from 32 clinical studies.

The finding doesn't mean people taking other antidepressants should switch. It doesn't even mean that Effexor is really better than other drugs -- only very large head-to-head studies can show for sure whether one drug works better or is safer than another. Yet the study results may have an impact on which drug doctors try first.

As initial therapy for depression, most doctors tend to use newer drugs that target a specific brain chemical -- serotonin -- involved in depression. These drugs, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. SSRIs include Celexa, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.

Effexor does this, too, but it isn't quite as specific. It also increases the amount of another chemical -- norepinephrine -- in the brain. Because of this extra effect, many doctors fear adding extra, unwanted side effects to treatment. But the new study found Effexor to be just as well tolerated as SSRIs.

"[Effexor] should be considered a first-line therapy for patients in whom efficacy needs to be maximized and in those failing to respond to SSRIs," study leader Ian Anderson, MD, says in a news release.

Anderson and co-workers at the University of Manchester, England, analyzed studies including 5,562 patients treated for depression with either Effexor or another antidepressant drug. Those who received Effexor were 43% more likely to have their depression go into remission than those taking SSRIs. Effexor patients also seemed to do better than those taking the older class of antidepressants called tricyclics, but the significance of this finding is less clear.

None of the studies compared Effexor to other non-SSRI, non-tricyclic antidepressants such as Remeron and Wellbutrin.

Will doctors suddenly switch? Psychiatrist Mark I. Levy, MD, is skeptical. Levy sees patients in private practice and teaches at the University of California, San Francisco. He tells WebMD that it's hard to interpret clinical studies of antidepressant drugs because even placebos -- sugar pills -- work nearly a third of the time. More importantly, he says, treatment must be individualized for each patient with depression.

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed and feeling blue.
jk rowling
Famous people who've struggled with persistent sadness.
depressed man sitting on hallway floor
Learn the truth about this serious illness.
Sad woman looking out of the window
Tips to stay the treatment course.
unhappy teen boy
Health Check
jk rowling
Pills with smiley faces
Teen girl huddled outside house
Depressed man sitting in hospital hallway
antidepressants slideshow
pill bottle
Winding path