Depression treatment keeping sex drive in top gearOne in six Australians could benefit from a treatment for depression that minimises side effects such as lack of sex drive, insomnia and agitation, according to national research released today1.
Mirtazapine (AvanzaTM) - a dual acting antidepressant that has been used in more than 10 million people worldwide - is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The product, which is indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorders, is safe, effective and well-tolerated. It improves sleep, reduces anxiety and, unlike other antidepressants, is virtually free of sexual side effects2.
According to Professor Graham Burrows, Chairman of the Mental Health Foundation of Australia, Avanza is unique among the newer generation of antidepressants."Avanza is highly effective and has few side effects, which is important as side effects, such as agitation and sexual dysfunction are difficult to live with."
Side effects are well recognised in the community among those who have taken some form of prescription medication for their depression1, according to the national Newspoll, which gauged the attitudes of Australians who have either a personal or family history of the disease.
The most common side effects cited by sufferers of depression include insomnia, agitation and lack of sex drive1.
Professor Burrows said that while all antidepressants have the potential to cause side effects, such as insomnia and lack of sex drive, in up to 70 per cent of people, not all antidepressants produce the same side effects."The doctor will usually tell the patient about side effects, preparing them for the possibility. But newer drugs, like Avanza, have less of the side effects that cause people the most concern."
Professor Burrows said that during depression the normal supply of chemical substances in the brain is reduced."Antidepressants work by restoring two of those chemical substances. But they can also act on other chemical substances which can cause side effects, such as sexual dysfunction and insomnia,"
With its broad action, Avanza stimulates these chemical substances and helps re-establish normal functioning. Its two-way action allows it to increase the levels of the two specific chemical substances - noradrenaline and serotonin - important in controlling mood2.
Depression affects one in four women and one in six men at some stage in their lives. Each year, almost 800,000 Australian adults will experience a depressive illness. It is the leading cause of suicide in Australia3, yet often goes unrecognised or untreated.
The symptoms of depression include feeling down, poor sleep, poor concentration, poor short term memory, lack of energy, lack of interest in things, change in appetite, lack of sex drive, irritability, tearfulness, and feeling worse in the morning and picking up as the day goes on.
The most common approaches to treatment include antidepressant medication and psychotherapy, which are often used in combination. 4
Seventeen per cent of Australians have used antidepressant medication to treat their depression, most of whom are aware that this medication can cause side effects1.
Seventy-three per cent of respondents aged 25 to 49 who have either suffered from depression or who have a family history of the illness said they would be interested in medication that relieves their symptoms but does not reduce their sex drive1.
An overwhelming 83 per cent of those who are aware that lack of sex drive is a side effect of antidepressant medication said it could affect their quality of life1.
In addition, 77 per cent of those people aware that lack of sex drive is a side effect of antidepressant medication said they would be interested in taking a medication that did not affect their sex drive if their doctor recommended it1."Depression is a serious illness that can have considerable effects on quality of life. People should expect to get better with appropriate treatment like Avanza, that does not add to that burden,"
said Professor Burrows.
Avanza should be taken preferably as a single night-time dose before going to bed for at least six months, or as long as recommended by a doctor. It is not addictive and long-term treatment should not have any negative effects on the patient.
Side effects can include increased appetite, weight gain and drowsiness (during the first few weeks of treatment). The product should not be used in people who have a hypersensitivity to mirtazapine and nor combined with older antidepressants.
People seeking further information about Avanza or depression should contact their doctor or call the Mental Health Foundation of Australia on 03 9427 0407.Related LinksLifting the lid on depression - Newspoll findings
Tackling the blues - facts about depression
Professor Graham Burrows