Researchers at the Duke University Medical Center have found that taking antidepressant drugs while suffering from coronary artery disease increases the chances of dying. It was found that there was a 55 percent higher risk of dying for patients who took such medications in spite of being diagnosed with heart disease even after factors like age, degree of heart disease and severity of depression were taken into consideration.
"This finding that antidepressant use was an independent risk factor for mortality in patients with coronary artery disease was quite unexpected," said Duke team leader Lana Watkins, Ph.D. The researchers add that the findings give further credence to non-pharmacological approaches to treating depression. Watkins added that their study was designed to observe and hence a definitive conclusion cannot be reached. The study, which was supported by was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute., was presented by Watkins on March 4 at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Denver. "We were surprised since antidepressants, particularly the newer class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), have been generally considered safe," Watkins said. "However, even after taking into account many patient variables, as well as the type of antidepressant, the risk still remained. So there is something important going on here that we don't fully understand." The study analyzed data on 921 Duke University Hospital patients, who underwent cardiac angiography to assess the level of blockage in their arteries. Watkins added that further research was needed to judge the impact of depression on mortality.
Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center