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What is Symbyax®?

By Melissa Neiman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Symbyax® is the first medication of its kind to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the short-term treatment of major depression. Some doctors turn to this medication when patients do not respond to psychotherapy or standard antidepressants.

Major depression is a mood disorder characterized by a host of psychological and physical symptoms including profound sadness, sleep disturbances and impaired functioning, among others. Many people with major depression find some degree of relief with psychotherapy, medication or a combination of the two. If, however, mental health counseling and at least two standard antidepressants fail to improve symptoms over time, patients may be diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Symbyax® is designed specifically to treat those patients. In the US, it is also approved for use in patients with bipolar I disorder, which is characterized by alternating episodes of depression and mania.

Medications to treat depression are called antidepressants. Symbyax® is an antidepressant that combines two other medications — olanzapine (Zyprexa®) and fluoxetine (Prozac®) — into a single capsule that targets serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These three substances occur naturally in the body and are believed to be linked to depression.

Symbyax® is designed to be taken once daily, in the evening. There are five different dosage options. Dosage is determined by a doctor.

Patients who take Symbyax® often experience a boost in mood in as little as a week. In some cases, however, the drug may take a few weeks to start working, so patients should not become discouraged. In order for Symbyax® to be effective, patients should take the medication exactly as prescribed by their doctor.

Like all antidepressants, Symbyax® poses certain risks and may not be appropriate for everyone. Such risks include abnormal bleeding, allergic reaction, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, stroke and weight gain, among others. Possible side effects of Symbyax® include dry mouth, blurred vision, tiredness and swelling of the hands and feet. People taking Symbyax® will also require periodic blood testing to monitor their lipid levels during treatment.

Certain people should not take Symbyax®, including those taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Antidepressants, including Symbyax®, may increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in certain populations including children, adolescents and young adults. The effects of Symbyax® on developing fetuses are unknown.

Patients are urged to speak with their doctor and carefully read all of the safety information before taking this medication. Patients should also consult their doctor before stopping Symbyax® as sudden discontinuation of the medicine may cause dizziness, headaches and nausea, among other symptoms.

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