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Antidepressant class not linked to increased cardiovascular risk

Study of nearly 240,000 patients shows SSRI antidepressants are not linked with increased risk of cardiovascular events.

ECG tape showing paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia, a type of arrhythmia


Arrhythmia (pictured on ECG tape) is more common in patients with depression but the effect of antidepresants is not fully understood

Depression increases the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or arrhythmia, but it is not clear whether different classes of antidepressants increase or reduce this risk. 

In a study published in the BMJ (online, 22 March 2016)[1], researchers used UK general practice data to conduct a cohort study of 238,963 patients aged 20–64 years who were diagnosed with depression between 2000 and 2011. 

Over five years of follow-up, the team found no association between any class of antidepressant and an increased risk of arrhythmia, myocardial infarction or stroke. However, there was some indication that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), particularly fluoxetine, are associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction. 

The researchers say that these findings require further research but should be reassuring following recent concerns over the safety of SSRIs.

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2016.20200936

Readers' comments (1)

  • Interesting but it was my understanding that escitalopram and citalopram increased QT prolongation and consequently increased risk of ventricular arrhythmias and therefore should be avoided in patients who have any cardiovascular risk factors.

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Supplementary images

  • ECG tape showing paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia, a type of arrhythmia

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