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elizd's picture

The anti-depressant drug Pristiq

I have just suffered 6 weeks of withdrawal from the anti-depressant Pristiq, which had been prescribed by my doctor and was available on the PBS. For most of this period I found that it was impossible to work and, for 4 weeks, impossible to drive.
I have done the limited research into the drug possible via the internet and find that it was initially developed by Pfizer/Wyeth as an alternative to HRT in the treatment of hot flushes. It was subsequently promoted it as an anti-depressant to replace their anti-depressant Effexor, whose license had run out, and was licensed in the USA and other countries (but not Europe).

In November 2012 Wyeth's shareholders completed a successful class action against the company. Background information drawn from an earlier Reuters article about the class action:
"Wyeth shares lost more than $7.6 billion of market value on July 24, 2007 after the company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would not approve Pristiq to treat "hot flashes" in post-menopausal women until it received information about potential serious heart and liver problems associated with use of the drug.
Shareholders said Wyeth should have revealed adverse effects associated with Pristiq sooner, and that its failure to do so caused its stock price to be inflated during the June 26, 2006 to July 24, 2007 class period. Pfizer bought Wyeth in 2009.
Pristiq generated $309 million of sales from January to June for New York-based Pfizer, falling short of the "multi-billion dollar potential" that Wyeth Chief Executive Robert Essner had in October 2006 said the drug might have.
Analysts once hoped the drug, whose chemical name is desvenlafaxine, could generate more than $2 billion of annual sales, and help Wyeth withstand the 2010 loss of patent protection for its anti-depression drug Effexor.
Essner and several other former Wyeth officials are also defendants in the case.
Sullivan said the shareholders had shown they had relied on Wyeth's alleged misrepresentations, and considered Pristiq particularly important to Wyeth's overall business.
"Under the facts currently before it, including Wyeth's drug pipeline and the looming expiration of patents concerning other Wyeth drugs, the court concludes that the plaintiffs have sufficiently demonstrated the materiality of the allegedly omitted information," Sullivan wrote." Reuters Sept 18 2012

I am attempting to follow through on this drug as I have the belief, shared by other ex-users, that it has limited benefit as an anti-depressant, a nasty range of side-effects, the worst of which was brain-dulling plus almost total loss of libido, and is so designed that it is virtually impossible to 'tail off', due to its enteric coating and lack of strengths below the standard dose of 50mg. The withdrawal symptoms that I have heard about are very nasty indeed (diarrhoea, memory loss, insomnia, flashes of extreme agression - I got that one and it was truly horrible - very real suicidal impulses, nightmares that feel like hallucinations, etc etc).
I believe that it should be removed from the PBS, thus saving other Australains from similar experiences to my own.
Easily accessable references are:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desvenlafaxine#Europe...
http://labeling.pfizer.com/showlabeling.aspx?id=497
Googling Pristiq withdrawal unearths a whole world of pain out there.

Comments

elizd's picture
In addition to my post regarding Pristiq, I had left out, as irrelevant, the fact that my doctor, in prescribing Pristiq, had so little knowledge of the drug that she had printed on the label that I should cut the 100mg tablets in half for the first 2 weeks, although the Prescribing Information, given out by Pfizer/Wyeth specifically states: "Recommended dose: 50 mg once daily with or without food (2.1). There was no evidence that doses greater than 50 mg/day confer any additional benefit (2.1). Tablets should be taken whole; do not divide, crush, chew, or dissolve (2.1). " I decided to 'come off' Pristiq after 9 months, under the care of a different GP. I have added this in the hopes that my credibility will not be doubted as I am "depressed" and should not doubt my GP's advice.
ourhealth moderator's picture
Thank you elizd, for sharing your experience. It shows the essential role consumers have in ensuring their care and healthcare in general is the best that it can be. Thanks for highlighting the importance of consumers learning about the medicines they are taking, working with their healthcare professional (and when in doubt, seeking additional advice) and reporting any adverse reactions to their medicines. Readers might be interested in the processes that a medicine goes through before it is approved for sale in Australia and subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). A good summary is provided by NPS Medicinewise at: http://www.nps.org.au/conditions-and-topics/topics/how-to-be-medicinewise/regulation-clinical-trials/pbs-listing Consumer Medicine Information on individual medicines is also available on this website at: http://www.nps.org.au/medicines Prescription medicines released for sale in Australia are approved and monitored by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA encourages consumers to report any suspected adverse reactions to a medicine to their doctor and the TGA. General information is available on the TGA website at: http://www.tga.gov.au/hp/problem-medicine.htm Before prescription medicines are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), they are considered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC). The PBAC takes into account the clinical effectiveness, safety and cost effectiveness (value for money) of the medication concerned compared to other available therapies. Consumers can provide input on medicines considered by the PBAC (when they are placed on the PBAC agenda which is available six weeks before the three annual meetings of the PBAC). Details on this are available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/PBAC-Meeting-Agenda-and-Consumer-Comments-lp Unfortunately the current PBAC process does not make it easy for consumers to provide input on medicines that are not on the agenda. Adverse event reporting is currently the best way to report concerns and to ensure that Australia’s regulatory authorities are made aware of problems. This can be done via a doctor, the TGA (http://www.tga.gov.au/consumers/problem.htm) or by calling the Adverse Medicines Events Line: 1300 134 237 (http://www.nps.org.au/contact-us/adverse-medicines-events). These are not emergency contacts – in case of emergency, call 000. Thanks again for sharing your experience. We would like to hear from other consumers about their experiences. Consumer representatives work in many areas of medicines – input like this helps their work.
elizd's picture
Thankyou. I had not expected such a comprehensive and excellent response. I have lodged a report regarding my experices with Pristiq with the TGA and have passed this information on to others.
sunshineshines's picture
thank you thank you thank you. i am in full detox mode, but only after my boyfriend almost killed me while coming off the double dose his doctor had put him on. this drug ..did nothing for me but wreck my liver, and destroy our family.
ourhealth moderator's picture
Thanks Sunshineshines for sharing your views. It's really important that consumers have good information on medicines and their potential benefits, side-effects and what to be aware of while taking the medicine. The Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet published to accompany the use of Pristiq includes information about signs patients should look for when using the medicine. It also warns that discontinuing the medicine abruptly can be harmful and like all medicines, any changes to taking the medicine should be made in consultation with a doctor. CMIs are available from the pharmacy when filling your script and via websites such as NPS Medicinewise. The CMI for Pristiq can be found here: http://www.nps.org.au/medicines/brain-and-nervous-system/antidepressant-medicines/desvenlafaxine/for-individuals/desvenlafaxine-brands/pristiq-extended-release-tablets
Tags: CMI
bugs's picture
Thank you elizd. You have made me realise that I am not going crazy! I too was on Pristiq and have been for the past 6 months or so, the doctor ended up prescribing 200mg per day, it was not working for me at all. I cannot continually afford to go to the doctor, (he is currently on holidays anyway) I had no repeats of the script left, so I have come off Pristiq cold turkey, in hindsight, not a good thing to do. I found the side effects whilst on the drug and coming off it are horrendous. The diarrhoea, memory loss and insomnia were really really bad. I am coming to the tail end of the symptoms (I hope) and will never go on it again. I am waiting for my next appointment and will let him know what I have done. I have no idea what he might prescribe next, I hope it is something that will help me with my depression, I am so angry, sad and lifeless all the time, which is not a good thing when you have 3 daughters (one with a disability) to raise on your own. Oh, and if it was a drug to originally help with hot flashes .... for me, it does not work for that either!
amitchell's picture
I thought I should contribute to the menopause debate as I think doctors at times are somewhat biased when it comes to researching the side effects of drugs, including HRT/pristig. I too was pushed into severe menopause symptoms 2 years after having a hysterectomy. The sudden crashing of my hormones after the operation pushed my body into chaos. Tried HRT and TCM and most other products and remedies available to me, but nothing really worked for me. All the treatments from traditional methods worked for a month or less (if I was lucky 6 weeks maximum), but each time my old symptoms returned - the hot sweats, sleep interrupted nights, mood swings, dizziness and nausea, listlessness, depression and a whole range of other life crushing symptoms, including food allergies. When I confronted the doctors they were in denial. In my case, nothing I tried gave me sustained relief from these all-pervading symptoms, until I discovered Reconnective Healing which was provided by Time2Heal in Sydney. I have found a different solution to my menopause problems, it is called Reconnective Healing and was provided by Time2heal in Sydney. Look them up on the internet, it sure helped me and I am confident that it can help any women suffering from severe menopause symptoms. I strongly urge doctors to look at alternative medicines and approaches and I strongly suggest menopausal women to look at this as an option. It worked for me and in my case I have said goodbye to all my symptoms. I am also now totally drug and herbal remedy free. No more expensive herbal and drug charges, it is truly amassing and life changing! Anna
Nothappyjan's picture
Have been on Pristiq 50mg for 4 months and decide to stop using it. Doctor said to use on alternate days for a few weeks and warned that I may have unpleasant side effects. That was an understatement. I have suffered severe nausea, one episode of vomiting, headaches, a whizzing sound in my ears when I turn my head and dizziness. Have decided to go cold turkey after two weeks of following the doctors advice and just hope the side effects end soon. Will never use this drug again. I feel the alternate day method of weaning off the drug prolongs the side effects.
Bit Worried's picture
I was on Pristique once. Big mistake going cold turkey. I could barely move all week, I felt so ill. No other anti-depressant that I have taken, has ever helped much. Until I read your comments, I mistakenly had thought that this time I will just taper off properly, but now I am worried that I can't so Ill take them for a shorter time, then taper off. Don't really know what else to do. Thanks for the information.
ourhealth moderator's picture
Thanks everyone for your comments. Just a reminder to talk to your doctor and/or health care professional about any concerns about your medication before making any changes.
Viv's picture
Please issue warnings on Pristiq side effects, doctors are handing out samples like lollies and the side effects i.e nausea, memory loss, nightmares, vision loss, tremors, headaches, sleep deprivation and suicidal thoughts which other then inability to sleep ( loss of dog after 15years) were NOT present prior to starting this poison ... withdrawals can be the same, less or worse, but please give out information of the side effects before someone dies due to this medication ... I've been to hell and back with GP's pushing this drug, even after almost passing out " Poison hotline comment, was to continue taking medication and if symptons persist contact your GP and do not stop taking it" .. How do you contact your GP a 3rd time when you out cold on the floor from the side effects. Not to mention again, Pristiq can give you suicidal thoughts. How did the horrific drug get into Australia ??? I managed cold turkey .. what's the point of being on Pristiq if you have no memory, tremors, dizziness, headaches, nightmares, ringing in the ears and no sleep, plus blurred vision and your GP's says to keep taking it???? What am I missing ???
elizd's picture
AUSTRALIANS ONLY. A year and a half after I posted my first comment.....my GP put me on Prozac (seriously suicidal thoughts), and then back onto Effexor, which I'd taken before Pristiq, which made me feel even more terrible. Coming off Effexor was every bit as bad as coming off Pristiq. Anyway, hunting online, I found www.mindspot.org.au which is an Australian government-funded course in managing depressive symptoms via exercises devised by a team of psychologists. It's an offshoot of beyondblue. There's analytical tests once a week, which aim to pick up the seriously ill. I have my own psychologist who phones me every week. I find it to be a truly excellent course and has been of enormous benefit to me. Maybe the US has a similar course? I would never go back onto anti-depressants now. I was very sorry to hear about the loss of your dog, Viv, but don’t you find all those mind-altering chemicals in anti-depressants a bit extreme?? I found that the exercises on Mindspot worked when my cat died haflway through the course. Good luck.
FeatherRay's picture
If only my doctor didn't tell me that 'this anitdepressant is different, it doesn't matter if you stop taking them' after I told her of my reluctance to use antidepressants for circumstantial anxiety and unhappiness, I may have done more research. She handed me a box and told me to stop being uncooperative. I was so drained from stress and feeling helpless in my situation, I decided to try them. So I felt better, but exams for uni came up, and I recognised that it made me feel a bit dopey, and so I wouldn't take them the night before. Within a few weeks, I got myself out of the situation I was in, and decided that I didn't need the medication anymore, as I wasn't actually depressed or anxious for no reason before I started the medication. Well oh my god. I felt like a space cadet. Dizzy, brain zaps constantly, nausea. So I had to go to a new doctor (living in another area now) and get a prescription. Now I realise I feel stoned all the time. I forget basic words, I have trouble comprehending some basic concepts and can't concentrate on reading, can't get ready in the morning without spacing out. I am usually a 6.5 GPA law student but can hardly cognitively function! I want this cloud lifted! All this trouble, and I've only been on it for 3 months. I'm starting to think, giving the information I've come across regarding withdrawals, that my doctor was potentially seriously negligent with her advice.
Fuzzylogic's picture
I have been on Pristiq for almost 2 years and want to come off. Advised to take it slow and skip a day for a few weeks, then look at next step. A week in and I am feeling awful. Can't function properly, nauseous, ringing ears, sleeping a lot and lack of concentration to name a few of my withdrawal (often referred to as discontinuation symptoms). I've done a lot of reading on the Internet to find out how others have fared coming off this drug. Made my hair stand on end. Don't cut, don't skip, don't stop abruptly - so then HOW do you get off??? It seems that there are differing views. I've called Pfizer and the TGA. The latter call was the best call I made, finally spoke to someone who understood my dilemma. I will be documenting my withdrawal and submitting it to the TGA. Good luck to anyone coming off Pristiq
Roberta67's picture
Hi fuzzy logic, Can you tell me if you successfully came off pristiq. And if so how did you do it?
Miff's picture
Hi, I am on day one of coming off prestiq which I was taking mainly for anxiety and am frankly scared, especially after reading these comments. I have tried to come off prestiq before and found it too full on with feeling really depressed and wanting to sleep a lot so went back on the full dose., but this time I went and saw a psychiatrist who is putting me on another antidepressant which helps you come off them. It is called fluoxetine. I am annoyed that my GP didn't suggest using this for coming off it as this is apparently what helps. I am supposed to continue with this medication but you can just use it to ween yourself off pestiq. I am still nervous about the symptoms I will experience but hopefully it won't be as bad. It is interesting reading about the side effects (and lack of good effects) people have from this drug. I told my doctor that I was sure that it dulled me down and I felt less exciting about things and have lowered labido, but my doctor said this drug doesn't effect you in that way very much (although the psychiatrist said it can affect you in this way) . Whether it is the case or not, it will be interesting to see whether coming off it makes me feel different and whether my symptoms of anxiety increase or lesson as I did feel that prestiq calmed me down somewhat whilst I was at University.
Fuzzylogic's picture
Hi Roberta67 I am still tapering, it has not been an an easy ride so far. Going into week 4 and still have withdrawal symptons. Unfortunately I think I started the taper incorrectly (by skipping doses). I my changed my method after 10 days as I was finding it unbearable, so my system still trying to settle. Although not recommended I am cutting the tablets. Less withdrawal symptoms, but my ears still buzzing, that started when I was skipping and although a slight improvement the buzz is still there. I have become a member of a support website. This has a lot of information and people on there very encouraging and helpful. I will keep you informed of my progress. Going to hold on my current dose for the time being. My doctor is aware that I am cutting. fuzzy
ourhealth moderator's picture
Thanks everyone for your contributions to this discussion. Just a reminder, please discuss any concerns about your medication with your health care team and GP before making any changes.
jessbt20's picture
I was never fully informed of the side effects of pristiq, and to begins with if I forgot a dose I'd feel terrible. Ive been on it for a year and now if I miss a dose its ok. But after reading this post, I believe I am having side effects. The ringing in my ears is bad. Nausea. Some days infeel spaced out. I was taking my tablet at night and it caused and unsettled sleep (although now I'm aware that you shoukdnt take antidepressants at night fir this reason). I've also been getting numbness in my arms/hands. I definitely think I will be going back to my gp andvgetting changed. It has helped only somewhat with my anxiety/depression, just enough to take the edge off. Having said that, I was on the brink of a panic attack a week ago, for the second time since ive been taking pristiq.
my future's picture
After spending 4 days in hospital with sever physical symptoms and no medial results for the symptoms I that was suffering, I started talking to a psychologist about certain issues that I was experiencing. He then suggested that maybe I talked to a GP to gain some extra help. I made an appointment and was prescribed First 1) Florentine, I was taking for only 2 weeks and the symptoms I was experiencing was large bruising (with no known cause) and extreme itchy skin. I made another appointment to discuss this and he removed Florentine and have since been taking 2) Pristiq 100mg for approx 2 months and the side affects have been fairly extreme. I was have night sweats (pools of sweat) talk / yelling / kicking in my sleep (my partner was scared and didn't want to sleep beside me), nightmares, bruising, itchy skin, headaches, light and hearing sensitive, low moments and this was obviously not working for me. I have again went to see GP to discuss my issues. He suggested coming off these and taking 3) Remotive (St John's Wort). I asked him how I come of Pristiq and he said "don't worry just come off them" HHHmmmmm, this lasted for a whole day or two until I started getting noises in my ears (like someone is following me around the house scratching the roof) dizzy, foggy, mental collapses, unable to basically get up (LOW motivation), teary (uncontrollable, breaking down sobs), every time I moved my head my eyes are affected (liking rolling around in my head), head explosions, Diarrhea, feeling like I need to vomit, suicidal thoughts. I went to see my physiologist last night and felt on top of the world with the strength of an ox (except for the dizziness earlier in the day) and today wow all of the above and compounded. I have been coming of Pristiq for approx 3 weeks, trying to listen to my body and slowly weening myself with 50mg every second day (cutting them in half, which is not recommended but I had no other chose), this has been working but then started to get head spins (with some of the side effects above) by the second day and know I needed another a dose. Since Monday 29th Sep I started taking 25mg (again cutting it in quarters) and I started getting head spins yesterday and today started taking the Remotive which has not worked at all. I have been advised to go on another anti-depressant to ween myself of Pristiq. Here we go again another roller coaster, dont't really think I am looking forward to this :`( I do suggest to anyone considering using Pristiq to do a lot of research to see if this is right for you. All of the comments I have been reading on various sites would scare me enough to stay away from this evil drug
Andie's picture
My advice is try and hang in there. I was on Pristiq since March 2010 and went cold turkey 45 days ago. I've been though a living hell. At times I didn't think I'd survive. Brain zaps. Convolutions, headaches, extreme nausea, aching muscles and joints and the list goes on. Even my bowels have stopped working properly. I was hospitalised the other day and even though I had a severe migraine and constant nausea, they could not find a thing wrong with me physically. I had X-rays, blood tests and still nothing. The other symptoms have passed, but the nausea is so bad I'm on Zofron for it. I've had a migraine for 8 days that's not letting up! And I will not let up either. I will stay off this drug if it kills me. I've heard this could last up to 90 days and I'm halfway there, so please who ever you are I wish you all the luck in the world, and don't give up! God Bless xxoo
cupcake38rd's picture
OMG. Why did I ever go on this rotten drug? Just like everyone else I was so worn out and stressed that I "agreed" to try something new. Fast forward 4 years and I was hooked on 100mg a day of pristiq. Reading the comments on the internet I realise that the angry outburst and depression over the last 4 years were side effects. I thought I was just sad, depressed and angry and needed more medication to "calm me down". My god, it obviously destroyed my ability to think clearly as well. Anyway, I've decided to get off the drug and have been cutting the pills in half for the last couple of weeks. Started taking 100mg every other day but then decided I should drop the dose. I've had a constant headache, very tired, lost heaps of weight because I've got nausea but I'm determined. I'm starting to understand why drug addicts have such a hard time giving up their addictions !! However, I gave up smoking years ago and that was hard, I gave up cortisone after taking it for 13 years so maybe a positive, determined attitude will help because there doesn't seem to be much else on offer. What a mess..... Good luck everyone cause I think that's about all we've got.
Jojo's picture
Ive just been reading all the info on Pristiq withdrawal. Ive been on 100 for 2 years and am trying to come off. I went to my GP and have spoken to a pharmacist who suggested 100 a day then 50 a day. Now i read this is not good. Ive noticed when Im on 100 I feel normal, but taking 50 Im feeling despondant, lifeless, tired, irritable. Im going to move to 50 daily and soldier through, for how long Im not sure, then tapper to nothing. Im not sure this is right or wrong as it seems like everyone has differing ideas. I havent suffered nausea, but the times Ive missed a tablet the brain zap occurs within a few hours and its horrible. I will keep posting.
ourhealth moderator's picture
Thanks everyone for your posts. Please remember, this site cannot provide medical advice. If you are having concerns about your medication please speak to your GP or health care team. You may also find this information from NPS useful - http://www.nps.org.au/medicines/brain-and-nervous-system/antidepressant-medicines/desvenlafaxine/for-individuals/desvenlafaxine-brands/pristiq-extended-release-tablets
Melli's picture
Hi. I've been on 50mg of Pristiq for 2 years as part of treatment for OCD and depression that was associated with pregnancy, stillbirth of my son and post natal depression with my second son. I am trying to come off but have been given conflicting information be three GPs (I have discussed it over 6 months and each has different opinions - one wants me to alternate days, another suggested substitute another AD (lexapro) for Pristiq). I spoke to a compounding pharmacy that suggested having it compounded in a smaller dose and adding a slow release agent to it but the GP didn't agree and wouldn't give me a script for that. I'm a bit lost. I know I don't want to go on another AD. I know that I don't want to relapse. Essentially, I want to get pregnant again but pregnancy is a stressor, biggest concern is always the safety of the baby hence taking ADs is counterintuitive. I'm going to take things slowly. I had started cutting pills but the rapid release was too much and not really recommended. I was experiencing nausea at the end of the day coupled with dizziness, my mood has been very good. I will now take whole pills and stretch out the time between them. Essentially dropping 1 pill a week every two weeks. It will be a very slow process but from what I've read this is the best approach. I'm hoping I'm right. I will update you on my progress.
elizd's picture
I am the person who started this thread in January 2013 and, Melli, I am horrified that this drug is still being prescribed when there is, as you all now know, no way to come off it without the greatest difficulty and discomfort. This can't, possibly, be of benefit to anyone. Is there nothing that can be done to ban it? That aside, I recently met someone who, like you, was dropping a pill a week. She found that if things got too bad on the days off, just a fragment of a pill helped enormously. Even if it was only a placebo effect! The very best of luck, and with your pregnancy.
Mozzamon's picture
I've been on Pristiq for 4 years now, really want to come off but like you all the side effects are incredible. Gave up a 30year smoking habit this year with barely a blip, but this stuff is bloody incredible. I'm glad its 'not just me' and reading all these responses explains alot. Desparately need to work out how to get off this stuff without destroying my family and relationships..... Need to hide in solitary confinement for a few weeks!
Georgia's picture
Hi, my 17 year old daughter was prescribed pristiq 50mg to help her manage her chronic fatigue, she has been on it for 12 mths and it has helped her not feel so tired and want to sleep all the time and now she has graduated high school and is on holidays it seems like a good time to come off it and see how she copes without it. So at my insistence the doctor agreed and said seeing she was only on a low dose to wean her off over three weeks, since then she has experienced tingling on the skin, numbness, nausea, diarrhoea on and off, irritability, dizziness, headaches etc. we were told it was not addictive and it would not be a problem, we were never told about withdrawal . I should have looked into it more, I am sure we will get her through it , but in hindsight , I think something else other than an anti depressant would have been a better option.
Fuzzylogic's picture
Hi Georgia, hope things improve for your daughter. I started to taper just over 4 months ago with mixed results. Skipping did not work at all so I cut. When I got down to an 1/8 I felt I was not getting a stable dose so I quit. It's now been 10 days and I've not had severe withdrawl, but it's there in the background. The worst part for me is the extreme anger and frustration I am experiencing. Something needs to be done to stop these drugs being prescribed at the first sign of problems. Drs should also be required to disclose ALL relevant information, including discontinuation symptons before prescribing. Having said that my dr does not believe it's difficult to stop.
fuzzy's picture
Hello. My girlfriend had been prescribed pristiq 100mg a few years back.. she had all kinds of symptoms and eventually went off the drug by cutting the tablet. She suffered from alot of withdrawal symptoms.. mood swings, irritability, brain zaps, brain fog, nausea, dizzyness, tinitus (ringing in the ears) along with a few others lasting a couple of months. After a few months completely off them she was still suffering from depression. So decided to talk to her new Dr about counciling. Instead her new Dr put her back on them but at 50mg (she had no intention on going back on them but was talked into it by her Dr) now 4 months into 50mg pristiq she is suffereing from all kinds of symptoms and feels like pristiq is clouding her and basically not helping at all. So last week she told her new Dr she was going off them again. Her Dr advised her against cutting them.. obviously there is no lower drug dossage to help with the tappering off. So she was given the choice to go every second day without them for 2 weeks then cut back to every 3rd day with them and so on.. or switch to a different antidepressants and taper off it (can't remember the name of it but its basically the same as pristiq) she chose to do the alternative days with pristiq.. this will be the 5th day and the withdrawal symptoms are rearing their ugly head. She is moody, snappish, unable to concentrate, crying (she usually is not an emotional person) foggy, dizzy, nauseated, anxious, having nightmares and very tired. Has anyone found anything to help with the withdrawal symptoms? Like diet, exercise, meditation etc? Shes knows the next few months are going to be extremely difficult so any tricks to make it easier would be appreciated. Thank you.
Tarni's picture
I was prescribed this drug within 1 x 10 minute session for minor dysthymia. I took it for 4 years, mainly because I was worried about how to actually get off it. Fortunately, I took the plunge and it was okay. I crushed the tablets and took half for two days, and then continued to reduce the dose to nothing within a week. Once stopping I felt slight electric pulses, and insomnia for 2 days. I also had quite a short fuse. However it was manageable and I was still quite functional. I now feel myself again. I notice so many things I had become numb too, like people's faces and emotional states. I feel more connected (to myself & others), creative and motived. I wanted to share this as there's a lot of very negative stories about getting off this drug, and despite not recommending it.. Personally, it was okay to come off by reducing dosage over a week. I noticed no ping pong effect. Withdrawal was all minor effects, Of course this was only my experience.
tigris's picture
I lived through what you are all reporting with a family friend, as their support person. We found a doctor who actually reads product information and gave the following advice: Come off the drug over a 24 week period, at 10 mg reduction per week. Please note, this is a general guideline, and not personalised advice. You will absolutely need to get the medication made up at a compounding pharmacy. Don't rest until you find a doctor to write the correct script. If you can't find a responsible doctor, who actually understands what they are doing, read the product information yourself <use the US FDA website, as American product information is far more comprehensive than the Australian version ... don't get me started on the ineptitude of the TGA :( >, and take it to the doctor and make them read it. Let them know that you will not hesitate to bring a medical negligence suit against them, if they will not engage in safe prescribing and withdrawal practices. The kind of advice the commenters on this site have been getting is just the kind of lazy, arrogant prescribing that I now see everywhere. I cannot stress enough that skipping a dose every second day in an effort to withdraw is not only very uncomfortable for the patient, but also potentially very dangerous too. Look up 'akathisia suicide and homicide' on the Internet. Changes of dose up or down are the most dangerous time for acts of violence against self or other to manifest. Have a look at SSRI stories for further verification of your own experience. No, none of you are going mad, you are being poisoned. Lest you think this is an anti-medication diatribe, it is not. If someone tells me their antidepressant helped them, that's great. It's the ignorance in prescribing and monitoring that causes the catastrophic problems. Just accept that the majority of doctors do not know about side effects, or safe withdrawal, and do not understand about the role of the cytochrome P450 family of metabolizing enzymes in choosing the right drug for the right person. A relatively inexpensive genetic test done before prescribing would greatly assist in responsible prescribing practices. Some people simply cannot metabolize antidepressants, and if you are on more than one drug, the problems multiply. Every time I read about the needless suffering of people in this situation, my heart breaks a little, as, with proper informed consent, most of this misery could be avoided. Also important to remember is that antidepressants are generally not effective for treating situational depression (say, for grief over death, or job loss etc). They were developed to treat biological depression (a very rare occurrence in the population), which in small, monitored doses, they do effectively. For the rest of cases, the risks of taking them are too great.
Suraya's picture
I was put on Pristiq 5 years ago to treat Complex PTSD and to help with perimenopausal symptoms. I searched for some info on discontinuing it and found this site. Wow, now I am very worried. Recently I had crazy heart palpitations and went to my doctor. As ADs apparently can cause these, she told me to stop taking them, COLD TURKEY. I could not believe my ears,as it undoubtedly states NEVER to do this. So I reduced my dose by alternating 1 day on and 1 day off. I am in the first week. After reading these comments of people on pristiq and coming off pristiq I have noticed a few parallels. Thank you so much for making this site available. When I first started taking them I could not even purchase them from the chemist. My doctor supplied sample packets to me. I will keep you posted as to what I am going to experience and I hope sincerely it will be as easy as Tarni's.
ourhealth moderator's picture
It's really important that consumers have good information on medicines and their potential benefits, side-effects and what to be aware of while taking the medicine. The Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet published to accompany the use of Pristiq includes information about signs patients should look for when using the medicine. It also warns that discontinuing the medicine abruptly can be harmful and like all medicines, any changes to taking the medicine should be made in consultation with a doctor. CMIs are available from the pharmacy when filling your script and via websites such as NPS Medicinewise. The CMI for Pristiq can be found here: http://www.nps.org.au/medicines/brain-and-nervous-system/antidepressant-medicines/desvenlafaxine/for-individuals/desvenlafaxine-brands/pristiq-extended-release-tablets - Please discuss any changes to your medication with your doctor and your healthcare team.
Sara G's picture
I've been on Pristiq for 5 years (after the death of my husband) I decided about 3 weeks ago to go off the drug as I don't take any other drugs and I'm not depressed anymore. I didn't tell my GP because he would have advised me against it (probably because he wants to see me every 5 months for the scripts) I was on 150mg (which I now realise was a lot!) I lost my ability to think (struggled to find the right words when speaking - even easy words. I've had terrible night sweats, nightmares, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, no sex drive, inability to orgasm, crying uncontrollably, unable to drive, get out of bed and no appetite either. This drug should be banned in Australia. I'm thinking of starting a class action against the drug companies and the doctors prescribing it. I'm self employed and this drug has almost destroyed me. I went from 150mg to 50mg for one week, then cut to 25mg for one week and cold turkey this week, which has been awful. I don't know how long the symptoms will last, hopefully I'll start to feel better next week, but who knows.
elizd's picture
I'm the person who started this thread. Sara G's post sparked off a memory of looking up the Pristiq Fact Sheet a few years back. To quote from Pfizer's U.S. Physician Prescribing Information, found at http://labeling.pfizer.com/ShowLabeling.aspx?id=497#section-2.1 "DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION Recommended dose: 50 mg once daily with or without food (2.1).[see below] There was no evidence that doses greater than 50 mg per day confer any additional benefit (2.1).[see below] Discontinuation: Reduce dose gradually whenever possible (2.1).[see below] Take tablets whole; do not divide, crush, chew, or dissolve (2.1).[see below] 2.1 General Instruction for Use The recommended dose for PRISTIQ is 50 mg once daily, with or without food. In clinical studies, doses of 50 mg to 400 mg per day were shown to be effective, although no additional benefit was demonstrated at doses greater than 50 mg per day and adverse reactions and discontinuations were more frequent at higher doses. When discontinuing therapy, gradual dose reduction is recommended whenever possible to minimize discontinuation symptoms [see Dosage and Administration (2.4) [see below] and Warnings and Precautions (5.9) PRISTIQ should be taken at approximately the same time each day. Tablets must be swallowed whole with fluid and not divided, crushed, chewed, or dissolved. 2.4 Discontinuing PRISTIQ Symptoms associated with discontinuation of PRISTIQ, other SNRIs and SSRIs have been reported [see Warnings and Precautions (5.9)]. Patients should be monitored for these symptoms when discontinuing treatment. 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." I, too, had thought: CLASS ACTION!! But how do you or I prove our symptoms. We are, after all, "depressed".
Hilda's picture
I have just been put on 50mg today after being on Citalopram for the last 3 years and being free from antidepressants for the last month, I have found I have not been coping with my anxiety and stress so won't back to GP today and she gave me Prisq. I stupidly took 50mg then decided to google for information and I have been horrified at everything I have read!! I think I will just go back on Citalopram.
Sarahrae's picture
Hi. I was prescribed pristiq last year as an anti depressant as I was having a hard time picking myself up after quitting amphetamines. I used it for an all of 9 weeks and then decided myself I didn't want to take drugs to get off of drugs as if probably just abuse them too. I'm glad I did. I had a few blackouts whilst on the drug, and also a lot of diarrhoea and headaches coming off of them. I was sceptical anyway because the doc prescribing them prescribes my father who is a full blown prescription drug addict. I'm just going to use natural alternatives as long as I can now. Big pharma just want us more conditioned and comatosed by their products. Seriously, he should have just bloody suggested exercise and running.
MedFreeFinally's picture
This drug was extremely helpful in giving me the boost I needed to get out of bed every morning. After almost 3 years on the drug (and a 30 pound weight gain) I decided that am finally in a good spot emotionally, financially, and generally, to try and detach myself from any prescription meds. I started at the beginning of the month by cutting my dose in half (my doctor said it was alright to cut them) and then every Friday I cut them smaller and smaller (just incase I did experience heavy withdrawal it wouldn't ruin my day at work). I did not have any withdrawal or side effects until I was down to approximately 12 mgs then the nausea, brain zaps, sweating, and crazy thoughts started. This only lasted intensively for a weekend. It's been 1 week now since I've completely stopped taking Pristiq and it feels great. I still have the occasional brain zap if I move too erratically but it has been worth it. I have lost 5 pounds in 2 weeks with no diet or exercise (probably water retention but still its a good sign) I remember before if I would miss a dose I would feel like a heroin addict withdrawaling, it was the most awful feeling and I was terrified that I would ever have to feel that way again... and that's scary Basically, before you take this medication you should know that getting off of it is a nightmare. You experience erratic thoughts, extreme dizziness, nausea, brain zaps, sweating, shaking and mood swings. If you are willing to go through that then it's worth trying. It was very helpful and I was able to get my life straightened out while on it, but I think medication should be used as a temporary fix, while you feel better work towards the things you want and when you reach the point in your life where you are stable in all aspects then you should remove yourself from a drug. Some doctors say its okay to cut them and some say its not, I did it and it was fine for me (the inside tastes like poison though).. I cut the square pill in half, then those halves in half, then I just cut the little corners off and took those. I am probably a freak of nature, but I can pretty much go to sleep on demand. When I felt sick or dizzy I just slept (2 weekends were ruined but it was fine) and when you wake up each time you feel so much better. These are just my opinions of the drug, and my experiences using and stopping Pristiq. I am not saying it will work for you or it wont be better or worse for you. Its just nice to know that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel, and if you work hard for something you will get there.
Suraya's picture
Just an update from me. I'm doing this slowly hoping to avoid some of the horrendous withdrawals. As this product was so new when I started taking it there wasn't much info-I didn't have internet either, I was very ignorant to potential issues. As I have already stated, I had to get sample packs from my GP. Since my last post 25th February I have been skipping a tablet every alternative day. Next week planning on skipping two days between doses. Seeing how my Doctor suggest I go cold turkey, I can't see how my method could be any worse. No side effect from skipping alternative days. Would like to know from others, assuming they were put on it for depression, how they tell the difference between negativity from before to their negative thoughts whilst going off pristiq? Just trying to prepare myself mentally should this occur to me.
Daniel's picture
I have started taking Pristiq for a second time. The first time I didn't like the side effects. It's true that if you want to stop taking this drug you need a supervised plan. I came off it the first time by substituting it with sertraline and then just quitting altogether as sertraline had no negative side effects for me. However I should never have come off it in the first place. I find Pristiq works. I have treatment resistant objective depression and Pristiq is working. I feel like I am here again.
Aimeelorraine 's picture
Just out of curiosity, will I be okay to stop taking it if I have only taken it once. After today I have never felt so bad in my life I felt sick, drowsy it made me so terrified just to pick up my baby. I've only had it the one time and I never want to do it again. I'll be going to the doctor today and telling them I won't be taking it again.
ourhealth moderator's picture
Thanks everyone for contributing to this conversation. Just a reminder - please discuss any changes to your medication with your doctor or healthcare professional. The moderators of this site are not medical professionals and we cannot provide or endorse medical advice.
Pipps's picture
I too have decided to come of Pristiq. 12 months ago i was diganosed as having depression whilst quitting smoking. i was put on 50mg then uped to 100mg and 150mg. i went down to 100mg, and after thinking i didnt need it anymore and stopped, within 1 day had the brain zappes and dizzyness. back to 100mg and there are days i start getting the dizzyness when i move too fast even when i have taken my medication on time. My gut feeling is I dont need this, and have started a very slow reduction. first week is 1 full 100mg tablet, next day shave off a quater, then next day 100mg. Im hoping this will work, and will progressivly reduce to nothing. I exercise everyday, eat well and still manage to put weight on. it is near impossible to loose wieght. I will let you know how I go. But I am amazed how easily I was put on this medication with no warning on what the side effects are. When i stopped smoking i went on Champix, and it worked well as a smoking ceasation. however how on earth can you wieigh up getting depression, high blood pressure and 10 kg weight gain at the same time. so much for being healthy!
Lucy's picture
I was on Pristiq for a little over a year, until around September last year I decided I did not want to take it anymore due to memory loss, not making sense when I speak etc. I was taking 150mg/day and my GP recommended to decrease to 100mg for a few days, then to 50mg the next few days, then 50mg every other day and then stop. When I got down to 50mg, I had the worse withdrawals. I can't remember what I was going through, but it was bad. My GP put me back on 100mg and I felt ok. But, I really wanted to stop taking this evil drug so I was determined to taper off again. This time the withdrawals wasn't bad at all, when I stopped taking it I was expecting the worse, but it was fine. I found Valium really helped a lot by making my mind calm. My GP recommended valium and I took up to 6mg a day (only when I needed it). Its been about 8 months since I have stopped taking Pristiq and I still suffer from memory issues and not making sense when I talk (find it difficult to think of words). I feel like it is getting worse and my GP won't do anything about it, he said it was meant to get better about 8 weeks from stopping as this is when the drug is completely out of your system. This is really affecting my university studies.
Alua197's picture
Ok peeps. Going through terrible menopause last 18 months. Anxiety and depression overnight and even suicidal for no reason I have a perfect life. Reached crisis point three months ago and started on hrt and pristiq. I was horrifically ill for about the first three weeks thought I would die. Six weeks in better but doc said she thinks I can just use hrt as it acts like an antidepressant anyway. I had horrific horrific thoughts during start up I might add which is nothing unusual but they were bad. I cut pills what else is one to do. Down from 100 to 50 two weeks on that then two weeks on a half and two on a quarter. I lasted ten days off it before restarting again. During that time I felt rage, insomnia, could not think straight, head felt like it was in a vice, nausea, awful thoughts, sweating, weird vision, weird hearing, my mouth spontaneously filled with saliva, unbelievable sadness. So I've been reading a lot an it suggests bridging with an ssri such as Prozac. My bad withdrawal did not start to the week after I quit. Now I'm back on the half I have terrible diarrhoea headaches jaw clenching and very irritable. I feel like I need to go to hospital to get off this shit. A lady I know suggested some Valium to help through the worst that's what she used
BoycotPfizer's picture
After 2 years on this drug, I've finally decided to kick it out of my system. The benefits I received from this drug were almost non existent but the side affects were major- continued depression, weight gain, fatigue, low libido, headaches. You would think why I kept taking this drug and the answer is simple, withdrawal side affects. There is no tapering dose from 50mg and the only recommendation is to go on another similar anti depressant- lol yeah no thanks. I slowly went from 150mg to 50mg and felt comfortable quitting now. Its been 3 days and I'm suffering from massive brain zaps, dizziness, nausea/constantly feeling like im going to throw up, confusion, night sweats and generally feeling like im going to die I would not recommend this crap to my worst enemy and if you are taking it, I would consult your doctor to try something less potent and more trusted. Zoloft maybe? The longer you stay on this drug the harder it is to come off it. Like any medication I guess, but this is the worst I've encountered so far.
rfead1's picture
Just going through withdrawal from pristiq now, day 3. It's terrible: nausea, brain zaps, irritation, inability to concentrate, hot flushes etc etc...am very disturbed about how long this will take to be rid of these terrible withdrawal symptoms. What a nasty nasty drug.
Did not like pristiq's picture
I'm generally a healthy a 29 year old female, but with anxiety problems. I've only been on this for about ten days and it has not been a good experience. Day 1 I felt really wired and buzzed up and hyper, then on about day 3 - out of nowhere, thank GOD I was at home because - I thought I had my period suddenly out of nowhere, which was odd then to my horror! realised it was diohorea. I'd had oysters the night before but I know it wasn't that because I've had food poisoning before and it was nothing like that. This only happened once because I immediately purchased gastro stop for fear this could happen again with no notice or control. That was truly horrifying. That should of been my cue to stop taking Piristiq, how can that be a good thing?! but I've been having them for about ten days still thinking I'll persist with it to get some mental relief, and then one night I had a lot of alcohol - silly idea caused major feelings of intense depression. I've had a random ear ache also seems like it's probably pristiq that's caused that, wouldn't suprise me after the first side effect I explained. The last 3 days I've been having so many suicidal thoughts and feel bad about literally everything. Emotions are numb but also out of control if anybody can relate to that. After finding this site and learning about the withdrawal and realising the drug is making me feel this bad and not me I'm going to stop straight away. I only wanted to read good things about pristiq, and read a couple of comments on how it's helped some people. I honestly thought I was making the right decision giving it a go. But it seems to me no matter how many things you read about these types of medication, the overwhelming responses are negative. I don't believe there is a magic pill to fix our problems. I'm just going to focus on getting this out of my system and even after only ten days I'm so scared to stop. I clean eat and try my best to be healthy normally but stopped exercising over winter and lost motivation from the cold but I think I need to just put everything in to natural ways of feeling better and keeping up exercise to alleviate stress and problems, and totally ban alcohol. I lined up cognitive behavioural therapy before I started taking this but haven't been yet. Right now I feel truly awful but I've realised it's the drug. About 5 years ago I tried Zoloft for 12 months for the same problems and it made me feel like a zombie, coming off that wasn't pleasent at all. I'm just going to try and be consistent with exercise and still eat healthy and entirely give up alcohol and focus on that.
OurHealthModerator's picture
Thanks everyone for your comments. Just a reminder to talk to your doctor and/or health care professional about any concerns about your medication before making any changes.

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