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Study Points to Multiple Health Effects from SSRI Antidepressants

May 15, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Another recent study has painted a grim picture on the safety and efficacy of popular antidepressant drugs like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.

According to a report from UK’s The Daily Mail, a new study published in the journal Frontiers of Evolutionary Psychology notes that more people are learning of the negative effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs than they are the intended benefits.

SSRIs are often prescribed to treat mild and severe forms of depression, with millions of people taking the drugs to treat less serious symptoms. They work by boosting the levels of serotonin produced by the brain, thought to enhance better mood among the depressed.

This most recent study examines the results of previous studies and combines it with new research in the U.K. to find that many people on the drugs are finding no clinical benefits but a wide array of adverse side effects. In the study, the most commonly reported side effects were digestive problems, sexual dysfunctions, stroke, and even some cases of death. In some cases, the antidepressants had a reversal effect on patients, actually causing them to feel more depressed.

The study also cited another recent study that found SSRI antidepressants caused a 68 percent increased risk of causing birth defects when they’re taken by pregnant women or women about to become pregnant. Some birth defects commonly caused by antidepressants are cleft lip, cleft palate, and an increasing number of cardiac side effects.

Further, taking these drugs for longer periods of time can reduce their effectiveness and can cause a patient to relapse into the conditions the drugs were prescribed to treat.

Many elderly patients are prescribed SSRI antidepressants and most of these prescriptions are handed out to patients on an “off-label” basis, often given to patients suffering from symptoms of dementia despite them being proven to have no clinical benefit to those patients. In many elderly patients, SSRI antidepressants are believed to be the root of many problems and cause a 4 percent increased risk of death.

The new study does admit some fault, noting that researchers and physicians are still not exactly sure how they work on all parts of the body, including the brain and that many physicians rushed to prescribe the drugs because they proved to be at least partially effective at treating signs of depression.

Previous studies have indicated their effectiveness in patients with more severe forms of depression but recent research indicates these drugs are less effective or have no impact on a patient suffering from milder forms of it. The study concludes by urging physicians and patients to weigh all the potential risks of the drugs before prescribing them at-will to patients if they ask for them. 

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