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SSRI Antidepressants, NSAIDs Don't Mix, Study Finds

Apr 26, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

People who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants might want to think twice about using NSAIDs, a class of anti-inflammatory painkillers that includes aspirin and ibuprofen.  Experiments involving mice, along with human data,  indicate that NSAIDs could decrease the effectiveness of SSRI antidepressants.

SSRIs, which include Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft and others, are among the most commonly prescribed antidepressants on the market. In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists found that mice exposed to both an SSRI and an NSAID scored worse on mobility tests than those given only an antidepressant.  The researchers conducted the mobility tests because it is impossible to gauge whether a drug has improved the mood of a mouse, and because such tests are easily reproducible.

Those mice treated with an SSRI alone experienced a 50 to 60 percent improvement on the mobility tests.  Any improvement seen among mice given both the antidepressant and an NSAID were not statistically significant.  The researchers also found that mice dosed with the anti-inflammatory drugs had less P11 in their brain. That's a protein involved in depression, and one that helps antidepressants work.

A review of past data from 1,546 people on antidepressants who participated in the 12-week STAR*D study - which asked participants to report their anti-inflammatory drug use – conducted by the same researchers  also found evidence that NSAIDS could inhibit the effectiveness of SSRIs.  Only about 40 percent of those who reported taking anti-inflammatory medications saw results from SSRIs, compared to 55 percent who didn't take the painkillers.  However, the STAR*D study did not ask respondents how often or how long they used painkillers.

The authors of the study said its strength lied in its reliance upon the mice experiments in combination with the evaluation of data involving human subjects.  They recommend that people who are not seeing results from SSRIs reconsider their use of NSAIDs.

The study authors, researchers from The Rockefeller University in New York, also said they hope to conduct a placebo-controlled study in humans to confirm these findings.

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