Can You Open Effexor XR Capsules?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not Effexor XR capsules can be safely opened.

May 10, 2018

Tonya asked

My son takes Effexor XR and as having some problems tolerating the capsules. I was wondering if it was okay to open them and just sprinkle the beads onto something?


Yes, Effexor XR (venlafaxine extended release) capsules can safely be opened without compromising the extended release mechanism of the medication. In fact, the prescribing information for Effexor recommends the following alternative dosing:

"[Effexor XR] may be administered by carefully opening the capsule and sprinkling the entire contents on a spoonful of applesauce. This drug/food mixture should be swallowed immediately without chewing and followed with a glass of water to ensure complete swallowing of the pellets"

Unlike many extended release drug products which should not be opened, Effexor XR capsules contain many small, coated, drug containing "spheroids" that diffuse slowly after reaching the stomach/GI tract. The physical capsule simply holds the drug containing spheroids together until is dissolves quickly after taking by mouth.

In terms of sprinkling the contents of Effexor XR on food, doing so should have no effect on drug absorption. Studies have shown that venlafaxine (the active ingredient in Effexor XR) is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and food has no significant effect on its absorption or actions in the body.

Effexor XR (Venlafaxine)

Effexor XR is classified as an SNRI (Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor) antidepressant, which works by inhibiting the reuptake of two neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. It may also weakly inhibit the reuptake of dopamine.

Unlike SSRI medications such as Zoloft, SNRI medications have been used to also treat neuropathic pain and diabetic neuropathy.

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