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Antidepressant-Mediated Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

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Anticholinergic effects of medications are factors in autonomic control of the lower esophageal sphincter function. Changes in sphincter control often lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic disease with a prevalence of up to 25% for adults. This effect is a consideration in the treatment of depression, the fourth-leading disease burden. Lower esophageal-sphincter changes are well documented in association with tricyclic antidepressants. The newer medications, selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are often used as first-line agents. This case report reviews the emergence of GERD in association with the use of newer agents.

The patient, a 55-year-old woman, presented to her primary care physician with complaints of low energy, dysphoric mood, and anhedonia of several months' duration. Trials of citalopram and escitalopram were associated with reports of persistent nausea and gastric reflux unresolved by changes in dosing schedule or positioning. Over-the-counter omeprazole on an as-needed basis was added. Ultimately, the patient was successfully managed with desvenlafaxine for dysphoric mood and low energy and scheduled administration of omeprazole for GERD. The adverse drug reaction was evaluated using the Naranjo Adverse Drug Reaction Probability Scale. This methodology indicated a probable relationship (score of 7 out of 12) between initiation of antidepressant therapy and the presentation of GERD symptoms.

When evaluating patient response to medication, inquiring about new-onset symptoms may help assess pharmacotherapy, identify potential medication-related effects such as the anticholinergic profile, evaluate the need to add an antisecretory/antispasmodic agent, or consider an alternative treatment strategy.
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Keywords: Antidepressant; Depression; GERD; Gastroesophageal reflux disease; SNRI; SSRI; Selectve serotonin-reuptake inhibitor; Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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  • The Consultant Pharmacist® is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. It is dedicated exclusively to the medication needs of the elderly in all settings, including adult day care, ambulatory care, assisted living, community, hospice, and nursing facilities. This award-winning journal is a member benefit of ASCP. Individuals who are not members and wish to receive The Consultant Pharmacist® will want to consider joining ASCP.
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