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Seasonal affective disorder drug Wellbutrin XL wins approvalFrom MayoClinic.com
Special to CNN.com
What happened? People who have seasonal affective disorder and experience depression during waning daylight hours may find relief in a medication approved to prevent this potentially debilitating condition.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the antidepressant bupropion hydrochloride extended release (Wellbutrin XL) for prevention of depression in people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
With the approval, Wellbutrin XL becomes the first medication approved to prevent SAD, a type of depression characterized by seasonal episodes of depressed mood, loss of energy, social withdrawal, increased sleep and other, sometimes debilitating, symptoms. Wellbutrin XL is already FDA approved to treat depression.
The FDA noted that Wellbutrin XL's effectiveness for preventing SAD episodes was demonstrated in three clinical trials. In the trials, approximately 1,000 people with seasonal affective disorder were randomly chosen to receive either Wellbutrin XL or a placebo beginning in the fall and winter, before the onset of symptoms of depression. Treatment was stopped in the spring.
Pooled results of the three studies showed that 84 percent of people taking Wellbutrin XL were free of depression, compared with 72 percent taking the placebo. All of the studies were funded by Wellbutrin XL's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.
What does this mean to you? Wellbutrin XL is the first antidepressant officially approved by the FDA to prevent seasonal affective disorder. But many other antidepressants are used to treat or prevent SAD.
These other medications are used off-label, a common practice that simply means that a prescription drug is prescribed for a purpose not officially FDA sanctioned. For some people, light therapy is also an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder.
If you're already being effectively treated for seasonal affective disorder, whether with medication or light therapy, you may not need to change treatments.
As with other antidepressants, Wellbutrin XL poses potential side effects and health risks. Certain antidepressants, including Wellbutrin XL, may be associated with worsening symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Before taking an antidepressant to try to prevent symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, carefully weigh the pros and cons with your doctor.
June 14, 2006