WEDNESDAY, March 23, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Underlying depression, not antidepressants themselves, may be responsible for the increased risk of heart attack associated with taking antidepressants, according to a new study.
Researchers reporting in the current issue of Heart analyzed data on 60,000 British patients diagnosed with a first heart attack between 1998 and 2001, comparing their use of antidepressants with that of 360,000 randomly selected individuals without a history of heart attack.
Patients faced an increased risk of heart attack during the first month of taking an antidepressant, the researchers found.
However, this risk was constant regardless of the class or type of antidepressant used. Patients taking the older class of tricyclic antidepressants for the first time faced double the risk of heart attack within the next seven days compared with people who weren't taking the drugs. The same held true for patients taking the newer class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes drugs like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.
This increased heart attack risk fell steeply among patients who took antidepressants for more than a month, however. And drug-associated increases in heart attack risk vanished after the researchers factored in cardiovascular disease and depression.
Based on these findings, the British team believes any increase in heart attack risk may be linked to underlying depression, not to antidepressants themselves.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression and heart disease.