Study: No Heart Risk From SSRI Antidepressants
Prozac actually appeared to protect against heart attack, researchers say
By Alan Mozes
WEDNESDAY, March 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Widely used antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) don't appear to raise the risk for heart trouble among young and middle-age patients, a large analysis suggests.
Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.
The findings are reassuring, said study lead author Carol Coupland, a professor of medical statistics in primary care at the University of Nottingham in England.
Coupland's team found no increased risk for stroke or heart rhythm disorder among thousands of patients aged 20 to 64 who were taking SSRIs for newly diagnosed depression. And some patients were found to have a reduced risk of heart attack, the researchers said.
Nevertheless, "with this type of observational study it isn't possible to make firm conclusions about cause and effect," Coupland cautioned.
Antidepressants are the third-most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, the researchers said. And SSRIs are the most commonly used antidepressants, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
Although considered safe, SSRIs can raise the risk for side effects such as nervousness, dizziness, fatigue, sleep trouble, and/or nausea, the study authors said.
It's also known that depression raises the risk of heart troubles. But, scientists disagree on whether antidepressants -- particularly SSRIs -- raise or lower the risk, the authors said in background notes in the study.
To explore the issue, the investigators analyzed data collected by the U.K. QResearch database, which covers more than 12 million British patients treated at 600 general practice facilities.
Nearly 240,000 of those patients were between 20 and 64 years old and diagnosed with depression between 2000 and 2011. A little more than 70 percent were taking SSRIs. Their heart health was tracked until 2012.
During roughly five years of follow-up, nearly 800 patients experienced a heart attack and more than 1,100 had a stroke of some kind. About 1,450 were diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), the investigators found.
When the study team looked at different types of antidepressants, as well as dosage and duration, it concluded there was "no significant association" between SSRIs and an increased risk for heart attack, stroke or an irregular heartbeat.