Emsam is a brand name for transdermal selegiline, a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and major depressive disorder. Emsam is available as a patch that should be pasted onto the skin like an adhesive bandage.
Emsam’s active ingredient is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) called selegiline. MAOIs inhibit the activity of enzymes in the monoamine oxidase family, and have historically been considered a last line of treatment in cases where tricyclic antidepressants and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) have failed. Newer MAOIs like selegiline, which is a phenethylamine, however are considered safe for initial treatments.
Selegiline is mainly used to treat Parkinson’s disease because it enhances the effects L-DOPA chemicals that act against the disease. Emsam is the first transdermal patch containing selegiline as a treatment for major depression. The transdermal patch constitutes of three layers: an outer backing layer, an adhesive layer and a release liner that touches the skin. The adhesive patch delivers the drug through the skin into the bloodstream.
Emsam transdermal patches are available in 6, 9 or 12 milligram doses.
Due to Selegiline being chemically similar to certain illicit drugs, it is a controlled substance in Japan that can only be obtained with a special prescription or a government issued license.
Selegiline is not a government controlled substance in the United States, but requires a physician’s prescription to obtain from a pharmacy.
Emsam dosage depends on case by case recommendations by healthcare professionals. Generally, one transdermal patch is used per day.
Common side effects of selegiline include the following:
Increased eye sensitivity to the light
Faster or a slower heartbeat
Unusual body movements
Excessive sweating and clammy skin
Soreness in the neck area
Vomiting and nausea
Less common, but potentially severe, side effects of selegiline include:
Loss of appetite
Uncontrollable bodily movements
Feeling unusually tired or weak
Muscle cramps or pain
Loss of balance
Side effects from selegiline might disappear on their own as the body adjusts to the drug. However, seek medical care if side effects continue to persist or worsen over time.
Antidepressants like Emsam can increase the risk of suicidal behavior and thought in children, teens and young adults. Therefore, caregivers should pay close attention to mood swings and unusual behavior in patients who begin Emsam treatments.
Emsam is not safe for use in children under 12 years as the drug can seriously decrease blood pressure.
Emsam can react strongly with other medications leading to a possibly life-threatening condition called Serotonin Syndrome. Consult a healthcare practitioner regarding all other medications currently using before starting Emsam treatment.
Foods and drinks that are high in tyramine, such as aged cheese, soybeans, fermented meats, and alcohol should be avoided when taking Emsam in 9 or 12 mg doses.
Do not use Emsam patches if pregnant or breastfeeding without consulting a doctor.
Do not expose Emsam patches to sources of heat, such as heat lamps, direct sunlight, saunas or electric blankets.