Desvenlafaxine is part of a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs for short. SNRIs act on specific chemicals within the brain known as serotonin and norepinephrine. These are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin or norepinephrine. The serotonin or norepinephrine enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough of the chemical reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell, and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin or norepinephrine that remains in the gap between cells; this is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. When the levels of serotonin or norepinephrine become unbalanced, however, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression. Desvenlafaxine helps block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine so more remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the chemicals a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
Studies have shown desvenlafaxine to be effective for depression treatment in adults. In these studies, people taking the drug had more improvement in their depression symptoms, compared to those not taking it. These studies also showed that a lower dose of desvenlafaxine (50 mg per day) is just as effective and causes fewer side effects, compared to a higher dose (100 mg per day).