Vortioxetine is sold under the brand name Trintellix, and Brintellix and it’s approved for use in major depressive disorder. The name was changed to Trintellix in the U.S. due to confusion with Brillinta an anti-platelet medication. It was studied in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) at lower doses, but the quality of the evidence is poor and does not appear to improve symptoms or quality of life in patients with GAD.
I want to make a quick point before going into the details about the medication. When I say the effect size is moderate and Vortioxetine does not perform better than other options for depression, I’m not saying in an individual case that it may not outperform other antidepressants that the person has tried in the past. It very well might for that individual. I’m talking about on average in large sample sizes, Vortioxetine does not outperform other medications according to the current literature. It’s also not a go to medication for treatment resistant depression, the literature does not support this either.
The one place Vortioxetine does seem to stand out is cognitive function. Multiple studies have shown this medication to improve cognitive dysfunction associated with depression. It also appears to improve cognitive function in geriatric depression but failed to show any benefit in neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. It was also looked at as a potential treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but failed to show an adequate benefit in trials.
Mechanism of Action and Receptor Targets
This medication falls into a class known as serotonin modulators and stimulators. It is thought to work by several different mechanisms:
-Serotonin reuptake inhibitor
-5-HT1A agonist (may diminish sexual side effects)
-5-HT1B partial agonist
-5-HT1D, 5-HT3 (may enhance noradrenergic and cholinergic activity that improves cognition while reducing nausea), and 5-HT7 antagonist (pro-cognitive and antidepressant effects)
The most robust action is on serotonin reuptake and 5-HT3 antagonism, while the other interactions are considered minor.
|Target||Affinity Ki (nM)||Action|
Vortioxetine is metabolized by CYP2D6, 3A4/5, 2C19, 2C9, 2A6, 2C8 and 2B6, the half-life is 66 hours and it’s dosed one time per day. Reduction is dosing may be needed for patients taking strong CYP2D6 inhibitors (e.g. bupropion).
-Tablets come as 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg
-The initial dose for depression is 10 mg which can be increased as needed to a maximum dose of 20 mg daily.
-For GAD does were kept lower 5-10 mg/day range
-Can be taken with or without food
-It can be stopped without a tapper
Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, sexual dysfunction, weight gain is unusual but possible. Nausea and sexual dysfunction were the most common side effects; all other side effects were reported in less than 10% of cases.
Sexual dysfunction was found in both the plebe group and the treatment arm. The incidence was 14-20% for placebo and 16-34% for those in the treatment arm.
Rare life-threatening side effects include seizures, induction of mania and suicidal ideation.
Avoid using tramadol as it can increase the risk of seizure, and do not combine with MAOIs as this can result in serotonin syndrome.
It’s generally not recommended in pregnancy.
While this medication may be helpful for some individuals there is no evidence to support its use in treatment resistant depression or other disorders outside of the primary indication major depressive disorder. There does seem to be a benefit for patients who have significant cognitive dysfunction as a result of depression and maybe that is where this medication best fits into a treatment plan. The main side effects are nausea and sexual dysfunction which are common with all antidepressant options. You must also consider the cost of the medication in comparison to duloxetine which outperformed Vortioxetine in some clinical trials.