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SSRI Antidepressant Patients Admitted to ICU Have Higher Death Rates

May 23, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Yet another study is raising questions about the use of certain antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.  This time, research indicates that ICU patients who took SSRI antidepressants prior to admission have a higher rate of mortality, both while in the hospital and during the year after their hospital stay.

"Major depression is a common disorder affecting more than 16 percent of adults in the United States, and SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed medication class for this disease," said Katherine. M. Berg, MD, one of the physicians involved in the study, said in a statement. "The benefits of SSRI's for the treatment of depression are well documented. Due to the practical limitations of clinical trials, however, the long-term risks are unknown."

The study was conducted by a research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  They looked at the records of 10,568 people that either died in the hospital or within a year of being in the ICU.  Of that group, 1,876 had been taking either an SSRI antidepressant or a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).

According to the study, patients taking either type of antidepressant were 73 percent more likely to die either in the hospital or during the first year following their time in the ICU compared to the patients who weren't taking antidepressants. Among heart surgery patients, or those with heart problems, the mortality rate was double compared to other patient group.

Taking either type of antidepressant didn’t seem to affect all groups that were admitted to the ICU.  For example, sepsis patients treated with the drugs did not have a higher death rate.

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