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New antidepressants potential health risk for older people

Older patients with depression are more likely to suffer from health problems if they take more recently developed antidepressants, a study has revealed.

Those aged 65 and over are more vulnerable to heart attacks, stroke, falls and seizures and are at a higher risk of death if they take new selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) rather than older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), the research published in the British Medical Journal claims.

Data for more than 60,000 people in the age group who were clinically depressed between 1996 and 2007 was analysed by researchers from the universities of Nottingham and East Anglia.

Patients who did not take any medication for their depression had a 7% risk of death from any cause. This increased to 8.1% for people who took TCAs and the risk for those on SSRIs was 10.6%. There was an even greater risk for people taking other types of antidepressants.

Patients were found to be at the most risk from antidepressants during the first 28 days of taking them and in the first 28 days after coming off the drugs.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney said: “Given the potential harms, the decision to prescribe for an older person with depression should not be taken lightly.”


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