Antidepressants are not recommended in children and adolescents less than 18 years old. The clinical study showed an increase of suicidal thinking and behavior with antidepressants compared to placebo in children and adolescents. If an antidepressant is needed, the patient should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for suicidality.
Clinical worsening and suicide risk:
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), both adult and pediatric, may experience worsening of their depression and/or the emergence of suicidal ideation and behavior (suicidality) or unusual changes in behavior, whether or not they are taking antidepressant medications, and this risk may persist until significant remission occurs. Suicide is a known risk of depression and certain other psychiatric disorders, and these disorders themselves are the strongest predictors of suicide. There has been a long-standing concern, however, that antidepressants may have a role in inducing worsening of depression and the emergence of suicidality in certain patients during the early phases of treatment. Pooled analyses of short-term placebo-controlled trials of Antidepressant drugs (SSRIs and others) showed that these drugs increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 18-24) with major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Short-term studies did not show an increase in the risk of suicidality with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults beyond age 24; there was a reduction with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults aged 65 and older.
The pooled analyses of placebo-controlled trials In children and adolescents with MDD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or other psychiatric disorders included a total of 24 short-term trials of 9 antidepressant drugs in over 4400 patients. The pooled analyses of placebo-controlled trials in adults with MDD or other psychiatric disorders included a total of 295 short-term trials (median duration of 2 months) of 11 antidepressant drugs in over 77,000 patients. There was considerable variation in risk of suicidality among drugs, but a tendency toward an increase in the younger patients for almost all drugs studied. There were differences in absolute risk of suicidality across the different indications, with the highest incidence in MDD. The risk differences (drug vs. placebo), however, were relatively stable within age strata and across indications. These risk differences (drug-placebo difference in the number of cases of suicidality per 1000 patients treated) are provided in Table 1. (See Table 1.)
Click on icon to see table/diagram/image
No suicides occurred in any of the pediatric trials. There were suicides in the adult trials, but the number was not sufficient to reach any conclusion about drug effect on suicide.
It is unknown whether the suicidality risk extends to longer-term use, i.e., beyond several months. However, there is substantial evidence from placebo-controlled maintenance trials in adults with depression that the use of antidepressants can delay the recurrence of depression.
All patients being treated with antidepressants for any indication should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the initial few months of a course of drug therapy, or at times of dose changes, either increases or decreases.
The following symptoms, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania, have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder as well as for other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric. Although a causal link between the emergence of such symptoms and either the worsening of depression and/or the emergence of suicidal impulses has not been established, there is concern that such symptoms may represent precursors to emerging suicidality.
Consideration should be given to changing the therapeutic regimen, including possibly discontinuing the medication, in patients whose depression is persistently worse, or who are experiencing emergent suicidality or symptoms that might be precursors to worsening depression or suicidality, especially if these symptoms are severe, abrupt in onset, or were not part of the patient's presenting symptoms.
If the decision has been made to discontinue treatment, medication should be tapered, as rapidly as is feasible, but with recognition that abrupt discontinuation can be associated with certain symptoms (see Dosage & Administration).
Families and caregivers of patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder or other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric, should be alerted about the need to monitor patients for the emergence of agitation, irritability, unusual changes in behavior, and the other symptoms described above, as well as the emergence of suicidality, and to report such symptoms immediately to health care providers. Such monitoring should include daily observation by families and caregivers. Prescriptions for escitalopram should be written for the smallest quantity of tablets consistent with good patient management, in order to reduce the risk of overdose.
Screening patients for bipolar disorder:
A major depressive episode may be the initial presentation of bipolar disorder. It is generally believed (though not established in controlled trials) that treating such an episode with an antidepressant alone may increase the likelihood of precipitation of a mixed/manic episode in patients at risk for bipolar disorder. Whether any of the symptoms described above represent such a conversion is unknown. However, prior to initiating treatment with an antidepressant, patients with depressive symptoms should be adequately screened to determine if they are at risk for bipolar disorder; such screening should include a detailed psychiatric history, including a family history of suicide, bipolar disorder, and depression. It should be noted that escitalopram is not approved for use in treating bipolar depression.
Serotonin syndrome or neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS)-like reactions:
The development of a potentially life-threatening serotonin syndrome or Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS)-like reactions have been reported with SNRIs and SSRIs alone, including escitalopram treatment, but particularly with concomitant use of serotonergic drugs (including triptans) with drugs which impair metabolism of serotonin (including MAOIs), or with antipsychotics or other dopamine antagonists. Serotonin syndrome symptoms may include mental status changes (e.g., agitation, hallucinations, coma), autonomic instability (e.g., tachycardia, labile blood pressure, hyperthermia), neuromuscular aberrations (e.g., hyperreflexia, incoordination) and/or gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). Serotonin syndrome, in its most severe form can resemble neuroleptic malignant syndrome, which includes hyperthermia, muscle rigidity, autonomic instability with possible rapid fluctuation of vital signs, and mental status changes. Patients should be monitored for the emergence of serotonin syndrome or NMS-like signs and symptoms.
The concomitant use of escitalopram with MAOIs intended to treat depression is contraindicated. If concomitant treatment of escitalopram with a 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor agonist (triptan) is clinically warranted, careful observation of the patient is advised, particularly during treatment initiation and dose increases.
The concomitant use of escitalopram with serotonin precursors (such as tryptophan) is not recommended. Treatment with escitalopram and any concomitant serotonergic or antidopaminergic agents, including antipsychotics, should be discontinued immediately if the above events occur and supportive symptomatic treatment should be initiated.
Discontinuation of treatment with escitalopram:
During marketing of escitalopram and other SSRIs and SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), there have been spontaneous reports of adverse events occurring upon discontinuation of these drugs, particularly when abrupt, including the following: dysphoric mood, irritability, agitation, dizziness, sensory disturbances (e.g., paresthesias such as electric shock sensations), anxiety, confusion, headache, lethargy, emotional lability, insomnia, and hypomania. While these events are generally self-limiting, there have been reports of serious discontinuation symptoms.
Patients should be monitored for these symptoms when discontinuing treatment with escitalopram. A gradual reduction in the dose rather than abrupt cessation is recommended whenever possible. If intolerable symptoms occur following a decrease in the dose or upon discontinuation of treatment, then resuming the previously prescribed dose may be considered. Subsequently, the physician may continue decreasing the dose but at a more gradual rate (see Dosage & Administration).
Although anticonvulsant effects of racemic citalopram have been reported in animal, escitalopram has not been systematically evaluated in patients with a seizure disorder. Cases of convulsion have been reported in association with escitalopram treatment. Like other drugs effective in the treatment of major depressive disorder, escitalopram should be introduced with care in patients with a history of seizure disorder.
Activation of mania/hypomania:
Activation of mania/hypomania was reported in 0.1% patients with MDD treated with escitalopram. One additional case of hypomania has been reported in association with escitalopram treatment. Activation of mania/hypomania has also been reported in a small proportion of patients with major affective disorders treated with racemic citalopram and other marketed drugs effective in the treatment of major depressive disorder. As with all drugs effective in the treatment of major depressive disorder, escitalopram should be used cautiously in patients with a history of mania.
Hyponatremia may occur as a result of treatment with SSRIs and SNRIs, including escitalopram. In many cases, this hyponatremia appears to be the result of the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH), and was reversible when escitalopram was discontinued.
Cases with serum sodium lower than 110 mmol/L have been reported. Elderly patients may be at greater risk of developing hyponatremia with SSRIs and SNRIs. Also, patients taking diuretics or who are otherwise volume depleted may be at greater risk. Discontinuation of escitalopram should be considered in patients with symptomatic hyponatremia and appropriate medical intervention should be instituted.
Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia include headache, difficulty concentrating, memory impairment, confusion, weakness, and unsteadiness, which may lead to falls. Signs and symptoms associated with more severe and/or acute cases have included hallucination, syncope, seizure, coma, respiratory arrest, and death.
SSRIs and SNRIs, including escitalopram, may increase the risk of bleeding events. Concomitant use of aspirin, non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, warfarin, and other anticoagulants may add to the risk. Case reports and epidemiological data have reported an association between use of drugs that interfere with serotonin reuptake and the occurrence of gastrointestinal bleeding. Bleeding events related to SSRIs and SNRIs use have ranged from ecchymoses, hematomas, epistaxis, and petechiae to life-threatening hemorrhages.
Patients should be cautioned about the risk of bleeding associated with the concomitant use of escitalopram and NSAIDs, aspirin, or other drugs that affect coagulation.
Interference with cognitive and motor performance:
Escitalopram 10 mg/day has not reported impairment of intellectual function or psychomotor performance. Because any psychoactive drug may impair judgment, thinking, or motor skills, however, patients should be cautioned about operating hazardous machinery, including automobiles, until they are reasonably certain that escitalopram therapy does not affect their ability to engage in such activities.
Use in patients with concomitant illness:
Clinical experience with escitalopram in patients with certain concomitant systemic illnesses is limited. Caution is advisable in using escitalopram in patients with diseases or conditions that produce altered metabolism or hemodynamic responses.
Escitalopram has not been systematically evaluated in patients with a recent history of myocardial infarction or unstable heart disease.
In patients with hepatic impairment, clearance of racemic citalopram was reported to be decreased and plasma concentrations were increased. The recommended dose of escitalopram in hepatically impaired patients is 10 mg/day (see Dosage & Administration).
Because escitalopram is extensively metabolized, excretion of unchanged drug in urine is a minor route of elimination. Until adequate numbers of patients with severe renal impairment have been evaluated during chronic treatment with escitalopram, however, it should be used with caution in such patients (see Dosage & Administration).
Potential for interaction with monoamine oxidase inhibitors:
In patients receiving serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs in combination with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), there have been reports of serious, sometimes fatal, reactions including hyperthermia, rigidity, myoclonus, autonomic instability with possible rapid fluctuations of vital signs, and mental status changes that include extreme agitation progressing to delirium and coma. These reactions have also been reported in patients who have recently discontinued SSRI treatment and have been started on an MAOI. Some cases presented with features resembling neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Furthermore, limited animal information on the effects of combined use of SSRIs and MAOIs suggests that these drugs may act synergistically to elevate blood pressure and evoke behavioral excitation. Therefore, it is recommended that escitalopram should not be used in combination with an MAOI, or within 14 days of discontinuing treatment with an MAOI. Similarly, at least 14 days should be allowed after stopping escitalopram before starting an MAOI.
Serotonin syndrome has been reported in two patients who were concomitantly receiving linezolid, an antibiotic which is a reversible nonselective MAOI.
In patients with diabetes, treatment with an SSRI may alter glycaemic control (hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia). Insulin and/or oral hypoglycaemic dosage may need to be adjusted.
St. John's wort:
Concomitant use of SSRIs and herbal remedies containing St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum
) may result in an increased incidence of adverse reactions.
QT interval prolongation:
Escitalopram has been found to cause a dose-dependent prolongation of the QT interval. Cases of QT interval prolongation and ventricular arrhythmia including torsade de pointes have been reported during the post-marketing period, predominantly inpatients of female gender, with hypokalaemia, or with pre-existing QT interval prolongation or other cardiac diseases.
Caution is advised in patients with significant bradycardia; or in patients with recent acute myocardial infarction or uncompensated heart failure.
Electrolyte disturbances such as hypokalaemia and hypomagnesaemia increase the risk for malignant arrhythmias and should be corrected before treatment with escitalopram is started.
If patients with stable cardiac disease are treated, an ECG review should be considered before treatment is started.
If signs of cardiac arrhythmia occur during treatment with escitalopram, the treatment should be withdrawn and an ECG should be performed.
ECT (electroconvulsive therapy):
There is limited clinical experience of concurrent administration of SSRIs and ECT, therefore caution is advisable.
Use in Children:
Safety and effectiveness of escitalopram has not been established in pediatric patients (less than 12 years of age) with Major Depressive Disorder. Safety and effectiveness of escitalopram has been established in adolescents (12 to 17 years of age) for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Although maintenance efficacy in adolescent patients with Major Depressive Disorder has not been systematically evaluated, maintenance efficacy can be extrapolated from adult data along with comparisons of escitalopram pharmacokinetic parameters in adults and adolescent patients.
Safety and effectiveness of escitalopram has not been established in pediatric patients less than 18 years of age with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Decrease appetite and weight loss have been observed in association with the use of SSRIs. Consequently, regular monitoring of weight and growth should be performed in children and adolescents treated with an SSRI such as escitalopram.
Use in Elderly:
Clinical experience of efficacy in elderly patients (≥60 years) receiving 10 to 20 mg daily has been reported in published literature. The number of elderly patients was insufficient to adequately assess for possible differential efficacy and safety measures on the basis of age. Nevertheless, greater sensitivity of some elderly individuals to effects of escitalopram cannot be ruled out.
SSRIs and SNRIs, including escitalopram, have been associated with cases of clinically significant hyponatremia in elderly patients, who may be at greater risk for this adverse event.
Half-life of escitalopram has been reported to increase by approximately 50% in elderly subjects as compared to young subjects, whereas Cmax remains unchanged (see Pharmacology under Actions). 10 mg/day is the recommended dose for elderly patients (see Dosage & Administration).