Is itching an okay side-effect for Bupropion?
October 5, 2007 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm on day three of medicating with Bupropion (Wellbutrin generic), 150mg once daily, sustained release. This is my first time on any sort of anti-depressant, and I've started itching. I'd rather not call a doctor (I realize that's silly, but humor me), and webpages I've looked at seem split about whether itching is a rare, Stop Medicating Immediately side-effect or a common nuisance. Please advise?

The itching started last night. It's on-and-off, and seems to only happen in joint areas like the back of the knees/elbows or where my legs meet my torso, usually just one location at a time.

The webpages that call itching (or rash) a serious issue say it indicates an allergic reaction. Some of these sites only list "serious rash/hives" or "blistering rash" under that heading, and I'd say mine isn't blistering or very rash-like (unless I scratch a lot, which irritates the skin and looks rash-like). Others just list itching/rash under that "serious/cause-for-concern" heading.

Other webpages list itching as a common side-effect and not as cause to be alarmed.

I realize the proper thing to do is to call a doctor, but that's not currently an option. My inclination is to continue for a couple more days and see if it gets worse or better. By doing so, am I actually putting myself at serious risk?

For others on Wellbutrin (Bupropion), has itching been a side effect and was your doctor concerned about it? Did it go away eventually or is it just something you've had to deal with?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Call the pharmacist - any pharmacist. There are 24 hour pharmacists. Call one. You need an authoritative opinion.
posted by spitbull at 6:20 PM on October 5, 2007

Yep, call a pharmacist or check with your health insurance provider to find out if they have a nurse line. A lot of providers, and even some hospitals, have a dedicated number you can call that is staffed by nurses that you can talk to for a better opinion.

Looks like they even have some nationwide hotlines for the general public.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 6:42 PM on October 5, 2007

yeah, i think it's worth investigating sooner rather than later. you might also call the makers of wellbutrin (is it glaxo?). they probably have a customer information line that's open over the weekend.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:43 PM on October 5, 2007

If you go to PsychoBabble, and put in "itch" and "wellbutrin" you'll come up with lots of matches, e.g.
google search. That site has tons of people posting about their experiences with various medications.
posted by la petite marie at 6:52 PM on October 5, 2007

You'll nearly always get side effect when you first start an antidepressant but better to be safe than sorry - as the other MeFiers have said call someone to get a medical opinion.

For the itching itself you could try making a paste from baking soda / powder with water and put it on your itchy skin for about 20 mins (remember to wash it off thoroughly), or dissolve 4 aspirin in some water and do the same. I find whenever I have a mossie bite or a heat rash this all but eliminates the itching.
posted by katala at 7:01 PM on October 5, 2007

I was on wellbutrin for a month before the itching started. It started out like yours- a few quiet spots here and there. Within about two weeks, most of my body was covered in large itchy welts- the kind you scratch compulsively until they bleed. I'm itching just thinking about it. It also took a few days after stopping the wellbutrin before the itching died down. Anyway, I'm not a doctor, etc. but the itching (from mild to horrible) was listed as a side effect in something like 2% of testers. My doctor agreed with me that this was something that was impossible to live with and she gave me a new SSRI. She did not say that it was dangerous for me, other than the fact that I was freaking people out because I kept scratching. Of course, if yours stays mild, you may be able to live with it. You really should talk to whomever prescribed it for you as soon as you can. And good luck- I hope it turns out to be nothing- I wouldn't wish that itching on anyone.
posted by dogmom at 7:24 PM on October 5, 2007

It took me six weeks to get to the itching but it was quickly followed by big painful itchy red welts.

Stop taking the wellbutrin and take some benedryl.

If you feel any tightness in your chest and/or your throat tightens get yourself to the ER *immediately*. I am not kidding.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:28 PM on October 5, 2007

It's possible (but not certain) that you're having an allergic reaction. The danger is anaphylaxis, which can kill you stone dead in five minutes. That's what FBK is warning you about. (The treatment is an injection of epinephrine, more or less synthetic adrenaline.) However, that extreme of a reaction is unlikely -- though not impossible.

Generally, it's not a good idea to continue something that's provoking an allergic reaction -- but just some itching isn't necessarily conclusive proof that an allergic reaction is taking place.

You need a professional opinion. Meanwhile, to relieve the itching use hydrocortisone cream. If it gets severe, your doctor may decide to give you a shot of cortisone. (Folk remedies like baking soda are silly.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:48 PM on October 5, 2007

I know-know-know that everyone says the generic is the same as the brand, but my 3-4 days on Bupropion were uncomfortable, full of nausea, itching and horrifying delights.

I feel like a proper crazy lady requesting brand, but I swear it makes a huge difference. Nothing itches, I'm not spewing on the bus and my boyfriend swears I'm sane and upbeat. All the best, YMMV, e-mail in profile.
posted by cior at 10:36 PM on October 5, 2007

My generic Zoloft gave me terrible itchyness when I first started it -- and still does if a miss a dose or two.

I wouldn't be too worried about it. Call a pharmacist or a doctor and get a professional opinion. But don't fret too much about it. It'll probably pass.
posted by Avenger at 11:13 PM on October 5, 2007

I've taken Wellbutrin (and its various generic) for years and haven't run across the itching. That said, definitely stop taking it and call your doctor immediately. Itching is a fairly universal sign of some sort of adverse reaction.

It could be, too, that you are allergic to the particular generic they gave you, and not bupropion itself. Contrary to popular belief, generics do not have to conform exactly to the brand name formulation.

With regard to the Wellbutrin generics, there's a particularly problematic generic on the market from Teva Labs that seems to cause a lot of problems for many, many people. Unfortunately, it's also the most commonly dispensed generic due to its incredibly low price. Something like 1/4 the price of the other generics.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:16 AM on October 6, 2007

Stop taking and consult a doctor.

Here's what the package insert says (this is info from the manufacturer):

"A patient should stop taking Wellbutrin XL and consult a doctor if experiencing allergic/anaphylactic reactions (eg, skin rash, puritis, hives, edema, shortness of breath) during treatment."

Looks like this reaction has been seen in some people during treatment and it can have varying degrees of seriousness. In some people it can get a LOT worse.

With most drugs, just go to and search for "prescribing information." You will find the package insert written by the manufacturer that summarizes the studies they did and includes adverse reactions and interactions they found. The package insert for wellbutrin is here:

And I scrolled down to p.12 to find this.

Also, I am so jazzed that spitbull said to call a pharmacist. As a pharmacy student I am coming to the depressing realization that a lot of people think pharmacists don't know anything, but actually this is just the sort of question we're supposed to field.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:24 AM on October 6, 2007

Sometimes people get mild rashes from an allergy to a dye in the pill. The pharmacists should be able to switch colors for you. Of course, with any side effects to a drug you should consult a physician.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:55 AM on October 6, 2007

It took about 2 weeks, but I developed itching on Bupropion that started out quietly, then segued into welts (first just one or two, then several) over the course of just a few days. The itching went from mild & sporadic to nearly constant and unbearable, and sometimes it felt as if my airway was not as clear as it should be. My doctor had warned me to stop it *immediately* and call her if I developed a rash or welts, which I did. As soon as the itching became more than a mild annoyance, I started with OTC allergic meds to try to manage the situation. I was taking Claritin tabs during the day and Benadryl at night the whole time, and still had welts, which should tell you something about the severity of the allergic response. It took at least a week for it to clear out of my system, during which time I was still severely itchy AND if I scratched my skin (still dosed up on antihistamines), it would produce a deeply red slightly raised welt anywhere I had scratched. It sucked.

I would take the itching seriously. Call your doctor or a pharmacist. You will likely be advised to stop taking the medication. Many people are actually allergic to bupropion, and, as mentioned, the reaction is potentially life-threatening. I can't speak for whether the brand name would produce the same response, though I have heard anecdotally that some people do have different responses to the two.
posted by tigerbelly at 7:09 AM on October 6, 2007

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