Citalopram hydrobromide is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The only FDA-approved clinical use for citalopram hydrobromide is for the treatment of depression in adults (18 years or older):
Common off-label use:
The advantages and disadvantages of using this drug in the non-FDA approved conditions have their basis on the patient's condition and the clinician's judgment.
Citalopram hydrobromide acts as an antidepressant by potentiating serotonergic activity in the central nervous system (CNS). Multiple studies confirmed that citalopram hydrobromide is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and that it has minimal effects on norepinephrine (NE) and dopamine (DA) neuronal reuptake. It has a low affinity for muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, mild antagonist actions at histamine (H1), but no significant effect on alpha- or beta-adrenergic receptors or dopamine-1, dopamine-2, gamma-aminobutyric acid, opioid, or benzodiazepine receptors.
The oral route for adults younger than 60 years:
More common side effects include:
Less common serious adverse effects:
A rare adverse effect is hyponatremia resulting from SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion). Citalopram has shown to induce hyponatremia in case reports involving elderly patients. In addition to advanced age, other factors such as female gender, concurrent diuretic use, low body weight, and recent pneumonia may increase the likelihood of hyponatremia.
There are suggestions that there is a direct correlation between dose and symptom severity for the following adverse effects: impotence, fatigue, somnolence, insomnia, sweating, and yawning.
Abrupt discontinuation of antidepressant (also known as discontinuation syndrome):
Discontinuation syndrome is common in patients who suddenly stop antidepressant therapy. The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, light-headedness, dizziness, diminished appetite, sweating, chills, tremors, fatigue, somnolence, and sleep disturbances. Less common symptoms include electric shock-like sensations, cardiac arrhythmias, myalgia, arthralgia, and balance difficulties. Due to these side effects, gradual tapering of the antidepressant over several weeks to several months (based on the treatment duration) is a strong recommendation. The half-life of drugs and duration of the therapy should factor in these decisions as antidepressants with a shorter half-life may need to be tapered more conservatively.
Black Box Warning
Citalopram hydrobromide has correlated with suicidality and worsening depression, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults (younger than 24 years old). Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking compared to placebo in children, adolescents, and young adults. The advantages and disadvantages of using citalopram hydrobromide or any other antidepressant in these populations depend on the patient's condition and the clinician's judgment.
Patients of any age who start antidepressant therapy should be monitored and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. Citalopram hydrobromide does not have approval for use in pediatric patients.
Increased risk of suicidal ideation and treatment-emergent suicidal ideation (TESI) is a concern in younger patients at the onset of therapy. However, an analysis of 17 controlled clinical trials involving 5000 patients treated with either citalopram, a tricyclic antidepressant, another SSRI, or a placebo indicated that the group receiving citalopram had the lowest incidence of suicide.
Family and twin studies provide some evidence of a genetic influence on suicidal behavior, and some postulate that genetic influences may play a role in TESI.
Citalopram is contraindicated with concomitant use of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Evidence suggests that concurrent use of citalopram alongside an MAOI can result in serotonin syndrome (serotonergic hyperactivity). Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include rigidity, hyperthermia, autonomic instability, mental status changes, and coma. Similar adverse reactions are possible in patients who had abruptly switched from an SSRI to an MAOI; therefore, recommendations are to wait 14 days after discontinuing citalopram to initiate an MAOI.
Citalopram is also contraindicated in patients with a history of hypersensitivity to the drug.
Secondary to its inhibitory effects on 2D6, it could hypothetically increase concentrations of thioridazine, inducing dangerous arrhythmias.
Not an absolute contraindication in pregnancy but is not generally recommended, especially during the first trimester.
Canadian labeling includes additional contraindications not included in United States labeling: known QT interval prolongation or congenital long QT syndrome.
Before initiation of the treatment:
Monitor and evaluate the electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, prior to initiating therapy. Reevaluating electrolyte in patients at risk for electrolyte disturbances during the treatment is recommended.
Monitor patients for QT-prolongation. ECG is necessary for patients with congenital long QT syndrome, bradycardia, hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia, recent acute myocardial infarction, uncompensated heart failure, or concomitant use of other QT-prolonging drugs.
During the treatment:
Patients need to be assessed and monitored for worsening of depression, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior during the initial few months of therapy or when the dose increases or decreases. Weekly face-to-face contact with patients during the initial first month of treatment, followed by visits every other week for the next month, and ultimately at three-month intervals, is recommended.
Weight and growth should be monitored regularly by a physician during treatment in children and adolescents.
Studies reveal that even at doses up to 100 mg, toxicity is not common. However, there is a chance of developing serotonin hyperactivity at therapeutic doses, primarily if using another serotonergic medication concomitantly.
In the event of an intentional overdose, the ingestion of more than 600 mg citalopram requires 8 hours of cardiac monitoring. At the end of the observation period, if the patient is asymptomatic and QTc is less than 450 milliseconds, the patient can be discharged. However, in patients with QTc of greater than 450 milliseconds at the end of the observation period, inpatient continued cardiac monitoring is necessary.
Citalopram hydrobromide is a widely prescribed antidepressant by the nurse practitioner, primary care provider, psychiatrist, internist, and the neurologist. While the drug is effective for depression, its use requires monitoring. The drug has correlations with suicidality and worsening depression, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults (younger than 24 years old). Also, one should monitor electrolytes and obtain an ECG before starting treatment because of the risk of prolonged QT syndrome. Patients should be educated not to combine the drug with alcohol, sedatives, and other antidepressants.
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