Antidepressants should not be used in the treatment of children and adolescents under age of 18 years. Suicide related behaviours (suicide attempt and suicidal thoughts), and hostility (predominantly aggression, oppositional behaviour and anger) were more frequently observed in clinical trials among children and adolescents treated with antidepressants compared to those treated with placebo. If, based on clinical need, a decision to treat is nevertheless taken, the patient should be carefully monitored for the appearance of suicidal symptoms.
The following special warnings and precautions apply to the therapeutic class of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors).
Paradoxical anxiety: Some patients with panic disorder may experience increased anxiety symptoms at the beginning of treatment with antidepressants. This paradoxical reaction usually subsides within the first two weeks of treatment. A low starting dose is advised to reduce the likelihood of an anxiogenic effect (see Dosage & Administration).
Seizures: Escitalopram should be discontinued if a patient develops seizures for the first time, or if there is an increase in seizure frequency (in patients with a previous diagnosis of epilepsy). SSRIs should be avoided in patients with unstable epilepsy and patients with controlled epilepsy should be closely monitored.
Mania: SSRIs should be used with caution in patients with a history of mania/hypomania. SSRIs should be discontinued in any patient entering a manic phase.
Diabetes: In patients with diabetes, treatment with an SSRI may alter glycemic control. Insulin and/or oral hypoglycaemic dosage may need to be adjusted.
Suicide/suicidal thoughts or clinical worsening: Depression is associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, self harm and suicide (suicide-related events). This risk persists until significant remission occurs. As improvement may not occur during the first few weeks or more of treatment, patients should be closely monitored until such improvement occurs. It is general clinical experience that the risk of suicide may increase in the early stages of recovery.
Other psychiatric conditions for which escitalopram is prescribed can also be associated with an increased risk of suicide-related events. In addition, these conditions may be co-morbid with major depressive disorder. The same precautions observed when treating patients with major depressive disorder should therefore be observed when treating patients with other psychiatric disorder.
Patients with a history of suicide-related events, or those exhibiting a significant degree of suicidal ideation prior to commencement of treatment, are known to be at greater risk of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts, and should receive careful monitoring during treatment. A meta analysis of placebo controlled clinical trials of antidepressant drugs in adult patients with psychiatric disorders showed an increased risk of suicidal behaviour with antidepressants compared to placebo in patients less than 25 years old. Close supervision of patients and in particular those at high risk should accompany drug therapy especially in early treatment and following dose changes. Patients (and caregivers of patients) should be alerted about the need to monitor for any clinical worsening, suicidal behaviour or thoughts and unusual changes in behaviour and to seek medical advice immediately if these symptoms present.
Akathisia/psychomotor restlessness: The use of SSRIs/SNRIs has been associated with the development of akathisia, characterised by a subjectively unpleasant or distressing restlessness and need to move often accompanied by an inability to sit or stand still. This is most likely to occur within the first few weeks of treatment. In patients who develop these symptoms, increasing the dose may be detrimental.
Hyponatraemia: Hyponatraemia, probably due to inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH), has been reported rarely with the use of SSRIs and generally resolves on discontinuation of therapy. Caution should be exercised in patients at risk, such as elderly, or patients with cirrhosis or if used in combination with other medications which may cause hyponatraemia.
Haemorrhage: There have been reports of cutaneous bleeding abnormalities, such as ecchymoses and purpura, with SSRIs. Caution is advised in patients taking SSRIs, particularly with concomitant use of oral anticoagulants; medicinal products known to affect platelet function (e.g. atypical antipsychotics and phenothiazines, most tricyclic antidepressants, acetylsalicylic acid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicinal products (NSAIDs), ticlopidine and dipyridamole); and in patients with known bleeding tendencies.
ECT (electroconvulsive therapy): There is limited clinical experience of concurrent administration of SSRIs and ECT; therefore caution is advisable.
Reversible, selective MAO-A inhibitors: The combination of escitalopram with MAO-A inhibitors is generally not recommended due to the risk of onset of a serotonin syndrome (see Interactions).
Serotonin syndrome: Caution is advisable if escitalopram is used concomitantly with medicinal products with serotonergic effects such as sumatriptan or other triptans, tramadol and tryptophan.
In rare cases, serotonin syndrome has been reported in patients using SSRIs concomitantly with serotonergic medicinal products. A combination of symptoms, such as agitation, tremor, myoclonus and hyperthermia may indicate the development of this condition. If this occurs, treatment with the SSRI and the serotonergic medicinal product should be discontinued immediately and symptomatic treatment initiated.
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 (see Interactions).
Discontinuation symptoms seen when stopping treatment: Discontinuation symptoms when stopping treatment are common, particularly if discontinuation is abrupt (see Adverse Reactions). In clinical trials, adverse events seen on treatment discontinuation occurred in approximately 25% of patients treated with escitalopram and 15% of patients taking placebo.
The risk of discontinuation symptoms may be dependent on several factors including the duration and dose of therapy and the rate of dose reduction. Dizziness, sensory disturbances (including paraesthesia and electric shock sensations), sleep disturbances (including insomnia and intense dreams), agitation or anxiety, nausea and/or vomiting, tremor, confusion, sweating, headache, diarrhoea, palpitations, emotional instability, irritability, and visual disturbances are the most commonly reported reactions. Generally these symptoms are mild to moderate, however, in some patients they may be severe in intensity.
They usually occur within the first few days of discontinuing treatment, but there have been very rare reports of such symptoms in patients who have inadvertently missed a dose.
Generally, these symptoms are self-limiting and usually resolve within 2 weeks, though in some individuals, they may be prolonged (2-3 months or more). It is therefore advised that escitalopram should be gradually tapered when discontinuing treatment over a period of several weeks or months, according to the patient's needs (see Discontinuation symptoms under Dosage & Administration).
Effects on ability to drive and use machines: Although Lexapro has been shown not to affect intellectual function or psychomotor performance, any psychoactive medicinal product may impair judgement or skills. Patients should be cautioned about the potential risk of an influence on their ability to drive a car and operate machinery.