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Paxil Linked to Male Fertility Problems

Sep 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A study of Paxil has found that the it - and possibly similar antidepressant - could damage fertility in some men.  According to the study, conducted by scientists at Cornell Medical Center in New York, men who took Paxil for four weeks sustained damage to the DNA in their sperm.

Paxil - known generically as paroxetine - was brought to market by GlaxoSmithKline in 1992, and by 2006, Paxil was the fifth most-commonly prescribed antidepressant in the US, with more than 19.7 million prescriptions.  Paxil is part of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Paxil has already been linked to an increased risk of birth defects, as well as suicidal behavior in children and teenagers.  Studies have also shown that women taking SSRIs are more likely to have a low birth weight baby.

This latest Paxil study, which was published in New Scientist magazine, involved 35 men who provided sperm samples before and during Paxil treatment.  When their sperm was examined under a microscope, the before and after samples did not appear much different. 

However, tests on "DNA fragmentation" did show problems. Prior to Paxil treatment 13.8 percent of sperm cells were found to be fragmented.  After taking Paxil for four weeks, that number had risen to 30.3 percent.

Studies of couples undergoing IVF have found that when a man's sperm has higher levels of DNA damage, fewer embryos are produced.  Those embryos that are produced are less likely to implant successfully in the womb.

``We suspect the other SSRIs would have similar effects,'' Peter Schlegel, chairman of the urology department at the university's Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, told

The same Cornell researchers who worked on this Paxil study had voiced similar concerns in 2006, after finding that two men had developed low counts of healthy sperm following treatment with two different SSRIs.  SSRIs like Paxil and Prozac are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressant.

The results of the Cornell Paxil study will be presented in November, at an American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in San Francisco.

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