Escitalopram (marketed as Lexapro) is included in the class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This class of drugs is used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Why is this medication prescribed?
Escitalopram is used to treat depression in adults and children and teenagers 12 years of ago or older. Escitalopram is also used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; excessive worry and tension that disrupts daily life and lasts for 6 months or longer) in adults. Escitalopram is in a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It works by increasing the amount of serotonin, a natural substance in the brain that helps maintain mental balance.
How should this medicine be used?
Escitalopram comes as a tablet and a solution (liquid) to take by mouth. It is usually taken once a day with or without food. To help you remember to take escitalopram, take it at around the same time every day, in the morning or in the evening. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take escitalopram exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Your doctor may start you on a low dose of escitalopram and increase your dose after 1 week.
It may take 1 to 4 weeks or longer before you feel the full benefit of escitalopram. Continue to take escitalopram even if you feel well. Do not stop taking escitalopram without talking to your doctor. If you suddenly stop taking escitalopram, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood changes, irritability, agitation, nausea, dizziness, burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet, anxiety, confusion, headache, sweating, tiredness, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking escitalopram,
- tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to escitalopram, citalopram (Celexa), any other medications, or any of the ingredients in the tablets or solution. Ask your pharmacist or check the Medication Guide for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor if you are taking pimozide (Orap) or a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Emsam, Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate), or if you have stopped taking an MAO inhibitor within the past 14 days. Your doctor will probably tell you not to take escitalopram. If you stop taking escitalopram, you should wait at least 14 days before you start to take an MAO inhibitor.
- you should know that escitalopram is very similar to another SSRI, citalopram (Celexa). You should not take these two medications together.
- tell your doctor or pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications and vitamins you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: anticoagulants (‘blood thinners’) such as warfarin (Coumadin); amphetamines such as amphetamine (in Adderall, in Mydayis), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, in Adderall), and methamphetamine (Desoxyn); aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn); buspirone; carbamazepine (Tegretol); cimetidine (Tagamet); diuretics (‘water pills’); fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Lazanda, Subsys); ketoconazole (Sporanox); lithium (Lithobid); linezolid (Zyvox); medications for anxiety, mental illness, or seizures; medications for migraine headaches such as almotriptan, eletriptan (Relpax), frovatriptan (Frova), naratriptan (Amerge), rizatriptan (Maxalt), sumatriptan (Imitrex, Tosymra, in Treximet), and zolmitriptan (Zomig); metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL); other selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) medications; sedatives; sleeping pills; tramadol (Conzip, Qdolo, Ultram, in Ultracet); tranquilizers; and tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, amoxapine, clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin (Zonalon), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), protriptyline (Vivactil), and trimipramine. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor what nutritional supplements and herbal products you are taking, especially products containing St. John’s wort or tryptophan.
- tell your doctor if you have recently had a heart attack and if you have or have ever had high blood pressure; a stroke; bleeding problems; seizures; or liver, kidney, or heart disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, especially if you are in the last few months of your pregnancy, or if you plan to become pregnant or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking escitalopram, call your doctor. Escitalopram may cause problems in newborns following delivery if it is taken during the last months of pregnancy.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking escitalopram.
- you should know that escitalopram may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
- remember that alcohol can add to the drowsiness caused by this medication.
- you should know that escitalopram may cause angle-closure glaucoma (a condition where the fluid is suddenly blocked and unable to flow out of the eye causing a quick, severe increase in eye pressure which may lead to a loss of vision). Talk to your doctor about having an eye examination before you start taking this medication. If you have nausea, eye pain, changes in vision, such as seeing colored rings around lights, and swelling or redness in or around the eye, call your doctor or get emergency medical treatment right away.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Escitalopram may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- changes in sex drive or ability
- increased sweating
- stomach pain
- excessive tiredness
- dry mouth
- decreased appetite
- weight loss
- flu-like symptoms
- runny nose
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience either of the following symptoms or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING or SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS sections, call your doctor immediately:
- unusual excitement
- seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist (hallucinating)
- hives or blisters
- joint pain
- swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes
- fever, sweating, confusion, fast or irregular heartbeat, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, agitation, hallucinations, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- abnormal bleeding or bruising
- problems with thinking, concentration, or memory
Escitalopram may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom).
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA’s Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. http://www.upandaway.org
Lexapro Dosage and Strength
Lexapro tablets are film-coated, round tablets containing escitalopram oxalate in strengths equivalent to 5 mg, 10 mg and 20 mg escitalopram base. The 10 and 20 mg tablets are scored. Imprinted with “FL” on one side and either “5”, “10”, or “20” on the other side according to their respective strengths.
Lexapro oral solution contains escitalopram oxalate equivalent to 1 mg/mL escitalopram base (not currently being marketed).
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
Symptoms of overdose may include:
- fast or pounding heartbeat
- coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor.
Before having any laboratory test (especially those that involve methylene blue), tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking escitalopram.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
How to Use Lexapro ?
Lexapro should be administered once daily, in the morning or evening, with or without food
1. Major Depressive Disorder
The recommended dose of Lexapro is 10 mg once daily. A flexible-dose trial of Lexapro (10 to 20 mg/day) demonstrated the effectiveness of Lexapro. If the dose is increased to 20 mg, this should occur after a minimum of three weeks.
The recommended dose of Lexapro is 10 mg once daily. A fixed-dose trial of Lexapro demonstrated the effectiveness of both 10 mg and 20 mg of Lexapro, but failed to demonstrate a greater benefit of 20 mg over 10 mg. If the dose is increased to 20 mg, this should occur after a minimum of one week.
It is generally agreed that acute episodes of major depressive disorder require several months or longer of sustained pharmacological therapy beyond response to the acute episode. Systematic evaluation of continuing Lexapro 10 or 20 mg/day in adults patients with major depressive disorder who responded while taking Lexapro during an 8-week, acute-treatment phase demonstrated a benefit of such maintenance treatment. Nevertheless, the physician who elects to use Lexapro for extended periods should periodically re-evaluate the long-term usefulness of the drug for the individual patient. Patients should be periodically reassessed to determine the need for maintenance treatment.
2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The recommended starting dose of Lexapro is 10 mg once daily. If the dose is increased to 20 mg, this should occur after a minimum of one week.
Generalized anxiety disorder is recognized as a chronic condition. The efficacy of Lexapro in the treatment of GAD beyond 8 weeks has not been systematically studied. The physician who elects to use Lexapro for extended periods should periodically re-evaluate the long-term usefulness of the drug for the individual patient.
3. Screen for Bipolar Disorder Prior to Starting Lexapro
Prior to initiating treatment with Lexapro or another antidepressant, screen patients for a personal family history of bipolar disorder, mania, or hypomania.
4. Special Populations
10 mg/day is the recommended dose for most elderly patients and patients with hepatic impairment.
No dosage adjustment is necessary for patients with mild or moderate renal impairment. Lexapro should be used with caution in patients with severe renal impairment.
5. Discontinuation of Treatment with Lexapro
Symptoms associated with discontinuation of Lexapro and other SSRIs and SNRIs have been reported . Patients should be monitored for these symptoms when discontinuing treatment. A gradual reduction in the dose rather than abrupt cessation is recommended whenever possible. If intolerable symptoms occur following a decrease in the dose or upon discontinuation of treatment, then resuming the previously prescribed dose may be considered. Subsequently, the physician may continue decreasing the dose but at a more gradual rate.
6. Switching a Patient to or from a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) Intended to Treat Psychiatric Disorders
At least 14 days should elapse between discontinuation of an MAOI intended to treat psychiatric disorders and initiation of therapy with Lexapro. Conversely, at least 14 days should be allowed after stopping Lexapro before starting an MAOI intended to treat psychiatric disorders .
7. Use of Lexapro with Other MAOIs such as Linezolid or Methylene Blue
Do not start Lexapro in a patient who is being treated with linezolid or intravenous methylene blue because there is an increased risk of serotonin syndrome. In a patient who requires more urgent treatment of a psychiatric condition, other interventions, including hospitalization, should be considered.
In some cases, a patient already receiving Lexapro therapy may require urgent treatment with linezolid or intravenous methylene blue. If acceptable alternatives to linezolid or intravenous methylene blue treatment are not available and the potential benefits of linezolid or intravenous methylene blue treatment are judged to outweigh the risks of serotonin syndrome in a particular patient, Lexapro should be stopped promptly, and linezolid or intravenous methylene blue can be administered. The patient should be monitored for symptoms of serotonin syndrome for 2 weeks or until 24 hours after the last dose of linezolid or intravenous methylene blue, whichever comes first. Therapy with Lexapro may be resumed 24 hours after the last dose of linezolid or intravenous methylene blue.
The risk of administering methylene blue by non-intravenous routes (such as oral tablets or by local injection) or in intravenous doses much lower than 1 mg/kg with Lexapro is unclear. The clinician should, nevertheless, be aware of the possibility of emergent symptoms of serotonin syndrome with such use.
Lexapro Drug Interaction
1 Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
2 Serotonergic Drugs
3 Triptans – There have been rare postmarketing reports of serotonin syndrome with use of an SSRI and a triptan. If concomitant treatment of Lexapro with a triptan is clinically warranted, careful observation of the patient is advised, particularly during treatment initiation and dose increases.
4 CNS Drugs – Given the primary CNS effects of escitalopram, caution should be used when it is taken in combination with other centrally acting drugs.
5 Alcohol – Although Lexapro did not potentiate the cognitive and motor effects of alcohol in a clinical trial, as with other psychotropic medications, the use of alcohol by patients taking Lexapro is not recommended.
6 Drugs That Interfere With Hemostasis (NSAIDs, Aspirin, Warfarin, etc.) –Serotonin release by platelets plays an important role in hemostasis. Epidemiological studies of the case-control and cohort design that have demonstrated an association between use of psychotropic drugs that interfere with serotonin reuptake and the occurrence of upper gastrointestinal bleeding have also shown that concurrent use of an NSAID or aspirin may potentiate the risk of bleeding. Altered anticoagulant effects, including increased bleeding, have been reported when SSRIs and SNRIs are coadministered with warfarin. Patients receiving warfarin therapy should be carefully monitored when Lexapro is initiated or discontinued.
7 Cimetidine –In subjects who had received 21 days of 40 mg/day racemic citalopram, combined administration of 400 mg twice a day cimetidine for 8 days resulted in an increase in citalopram AUC and Cmax of 43% and 39%, respectively. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown.
8 Digoxin – In subjects who had received 21 days of 40 mg/day racemic citalopram, combined administration of citalopram and digoxin (single dose of 1 mg) did not significantly affect the pharmacokinetics of either citalopram or digoxin.
9 Lithium – Coadministration of racemic citalopram (40 mg/day for 10 days) and lithium (30 mmol/day for 5 days) had no significant effect on the pharmacokinetics of citalopram or lithium. Nevertheless, plasma lithium levels should be monitored with appropriate adjustment to the lithium dose in accordance with standard clinical practice. Because lithium may enhance the serotonergic effects of escitalopram, caution should be exercised when Lexapro and lithium are coadministered.
10 Pimozide and Celexa – In a controlled study, a single dose of pimozide 2 mg co-administered with racemic citalopram 40 mg given once daily for 11 days was associated with a mean increase in QTc values of approximately 10 msec compared to pimozide given alone. Racemic citalopram did not alter the mean AUC or Cmax of pimozide. The mechanism of this pharmacodynamic interaction is not known.
11 Sumatriptan – There have been rare postmarketing reports describing patients with weakness, hyperreflexia, and incoordination following the use of an SSRI and sumatriptan. If concomitant treatment with sumatriptan and an SSRI (e.g., fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, sertraline, citalopram, escitalopram) is clinically warranted, appropriate observation of the patient is advised.
12 Theophylline – Combined administration of racemic citalopram (40 mg/day for 21 days) and the CYP1A2 substrate theophylline (single dose of 300 mg) did not affect the pharmacokinetics of theophylline. The effect of theophylline on the pharmacokinetics of citalopram was not evaluated.
13 Warfarin – Administration of 40 mg/day racemic citalopram for 21 days did not affect the pharmacokinetics of warfarin, a CYP3A4 substrate. Prothrombin time was increased by 5%, the clinical significance of which is unknown.
14 Carbamazepine – Combined administration of racemic citalopram (40 mg/day for 14 days) and carbamazepine (titrated to 400 mg/day for 35 days) did not significantly affect the pharmacokinetics of carbamazepine, a CYP3A4 substrate. Although trough citalopram plasma levels were unaffected, given the enzyme-inducing properties of carbamazepine, the possibility that carbamazepine might increase the clearance of escitalopram should be considered if the two drugs are coadministered.
15 Triazolam – Combined administration of racemic citalopram (titrated to 40 mg/day for 28 days) and the CYP3A4 substrate triazolam (single dose of 0.25 mg) did not significantly affect the pharmacokinetics of either citalopram or triazolam.
16 Ketoconazole – Combined administration of racemic citalopram (40 mg) and ketoconazole (200 mg), a potent CYP3A4 inhibitor, decreased the Cmax and AUC of ketoconazole by 21% and 10%, respectively, and did not significantly affect the pharmacokinetics of citalopram.
17 Ritonavir – Combined administration of a single dose of ritonavir (600 mg), both a CYP3A4 substrate and a potent inhibitor of CYP3A4, and escitalopram (20 mg) did not affect the pharmacokinetics of either ritonavir or escitalopram.
18 CYP3A4 and -2C19 Inhibitors – In vitro studies indicated that CYP3A4 and -2C19 are the primary enzymes involved in the metabolism of escitalopram. However, coadministration of escitalopram (20 mg) and ritonavir (600 mg), a potent inhibitor of CYP3A4, did not significantly affect the pharmacokinetics of escitalopram. Because escitalopram is metabolized by multiple enzyme systems, inhibition of a single enzyme may not appreciably decrease escitalopram clearance.
19 Drugs Metabolized by Cytochrome P4502D6 – In vitro studies did not reveal an inhibitory effect of escitalopram on CYP2D6. In addition, steady state levels of racemic citalopram were not significantly different in poor metabolizers and extensive CYP2D6 metabolizers after multiple-dose administration of citalopram, suggesting that coadministration, with escitalopram, of a drug that inhibits CYP2D6, is unlikely to have clinically significant effects on escitalopram metabolism. However, there are limited in vivo data suggesting a modest CYP2D6 inhibitory effect for escitalopram, i.e., coadministration of escitalopram (20 mg/day for 21 days) with the tricyclic antidepressant desipramine (single dose of 50 mg), a substrate for CYP2D6, resulted in a 40% increase in Cmax and a 100% increase in AUC of desipramine. The clinical significance of this finding is unknown. Nevertheless, caution is indicated in the coadministration of escitalopram and drugs metabolized by CYP2D6.
20 Metoprolol – Administration of 20 mg/day Lexapro for 21 days in healthy volunteers resulted in a 50% increase in Cmax and 82% increase in AUC of the beta-adrenergic blocker metoprolol (given in a single dose of 100 mg). Increased metoprolol plasma levels have been associated with decreased cardioselectivity. Coadministration of Lexapro and metoprolol had no clinically significant effects on blood pressure or heart rate.
21 Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) – There are no clinical studies of the combined use of ECT and escitalopram.