Survey Suggest SSRI Antidepressant Users Need More Follow-up for Sexual Side Effects

A new survey suggests doctors who prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants don’t always ask their patients if they experience any sort of sexual dysfunction during that treatment.

According to DoctorDirectory, only about 20 percent of healthcare professionals routinely ask patients taking drugs like Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, and Zyban if they’re experiencing any form of sexual dysfunction, be it symptoms like decreased libido or erectile dysfunction.

SSRI antidepressants are prescribed to millions of Americans to treat a range of depressive disorders. While one new study recently suggested that most prescriptions for these drugs are having little or no effect on people with minor cases of depression, they likely are having some adverse effect on the patient in some other way.

The survey conducted by DoctorDirectory, a patient-based advocacy group, suggests sexual dysfunction could be one of those side effects but it’s largely under-reported because physicians are not asking patients about it and likewise, patients are unlikely to discuss this openly or voluntarily with their doctors.

“Our study represents an opportunity to bring awareness to the importance of sexual functioning for patients with MDD who are receiving antidepressant therapy,” Tom St.Peter, VP of IncreaseRx Marketing at DoctorDirectory.com said in a statement on the release of the survey. “It also emphasizes the need for both the patient and the healthcare professional to openly discuss all side effects regardless of their intimate nature.”

In addition to the 1 in 5 doctors who responded to the survey indicating they almost always ask a patient taking SSRI antidepressants about their sexual activity and function, about 43 percent of those responding said they “usually” respond. Certain specialist practitioners were more likely to ask about sexual function among their patients than others.

Based on the results gleaned from the survey, certain antidepressant drugs were more likely to affect sexual function in patients. DoctorDirectory took these results and ranked, from 1 to 15, the antidepressants most likely to adversely impact sexual function in patients. Among those drugs ranking in the top 10 as those more likely to cause sexual function impairment were Wellbutin (number 1 on the list), Prestiq, Cymbalta, Effexor, and Lexapro.

The survey is just an indicator as to which drugs may be causing the most immediate impact on sexual function. Researchers with DoctorDirectory believe that reporting of these side effects among patients to their physicians and a physician’s lack of questioning could be hampering any future studies on the drugs’ impact on sexual health. Sexual dysfunction is considered one of the most common side effects of taking SSRI drugs but that could also be the result of worsening of or the result of a patient’s depression.

DoctorDirectory surveyed more than 250 doctors in several fields for its research, including psychiatrists, family doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.

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