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Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction During Treatment With Moclobemide, Paroxetine, Sertraline, and Venlafaxine

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(4):276-281

Background: Recent reports suggest that adverse effects on sexual function occur in up to 50% of patients who are treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. Previously cited low rates were more likely a function of underreporting than underoccurrence. There is less evidence about rates of dysfunction with serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) and reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase A (RIMA) antidepressants. The purpose of this report is to evaluate disturbances in sexual drive/desire and arousal/orgasm in 107 patients who met criteria for major depressive disorder and received treatment with either moclobemide, paroxetine, sertraline, or venlafaxine.

Method: All consenting eligible patients who met DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder completed the Sexual Functioning Questionnaire, version 1 (SFQ) and were assessed using the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) prior to and after 8 or 14 weeks of antidepressant therapy. Analyses were carried out to examine the effect of gender, drug type, pretreatment level of sexual dysfunction, and drug response on reported sexual dysfunction.

Results: Compared with women, men experienced a significantly greater level of drug-related impairment in drive/desire (p < .05), whereas there were no statistically significant differences in levels of arousal/orgasm impairment between men and women. The reported impairment in drive/desire items for men ranged from 38% to 50% and from 26% to 32% for women. No differences were found across the 4 antidepressants in men, whereas in women, rates of dysfunction were generally higher with sertraline and paroxetine, but only significantly so in comparison with moclobemide on some measures (p < .03). Rates of sexual dysfunction with venlafaxine tended to fall between those of SSRIs and the RIMA agent. An unexpected relationship was found between favorable drug response and a decreased level of drug-induced sexual dysfunction.

Conclusion: Antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction occurs in approximately 30% to 70% of patients who are treated with sertraline or paroxetine. Lower rates are reported with moclobemide and venlafaxine. Clinicians should evaluate the various aspects of sexual dysfunction before and during antidepressant therapy.