Antidepressants Prozac and Effexor Could Pose Risk for Seniors

According to new research, some of the nation's most popular antidepressant medications, Prozac and Effexor, may pose additional risks for seniors and may not be the best choice for elderly patients, HealthDay reports. Older types of antidepressants, known as tricyclic antidepressants, are likely safer and cause fewer side effects for the older generation.

Prozac, medical name fluoxetine, and Effexor, medical name venlafaxine, are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and are typically considered safe for the general population. However, a study published recently in the British Medical Journal shows that other forms of antidepressants may be safer for people over the age of 65.

Other common SSRIs on the market include Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft.

In the British study, the research team led by Carol Coupland, an associate professor of Medical Statistics at the University of Nottingham, wanted to investigate how elderly patients reacted to such medications. This population is often forgotten in clinical drug trials and it is only until a medication has been on the market for a while that its affects on seniors are truly discovered.

The study looked at prescription data of more than 60,000 patients between the ages of 65 and 100 who had been newly diagnosed with depression. Ninety percent of those patients were prescribed antidepressants, and 55 percent of these patients took SSRI durgs while 32 percent were given tricyclic antidepressants.

Seniors taking SSRIs had the highest risk of falling, breaking a bone, seizures, having a stroke and dying compared to seniors not taking any antidepressant. Also 10.6 percent of seniors taking an SSRI died in a year, compared to 8 percent of those taking tricyclics and 7 percent of those those not taking any medication.

Researchers also found that tricyclics were often prescribed at lower doses, which may have been a factor in the study results.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, clinical depression is a mood disorder classified by feelings of sadness, anger, loss or frustration that lasts for weeks or longer. These symptoms interfere with daily life and is often caused by chemical changes in the brain.

The National Institute on Health states that older adults are greatly affected by depression and suicide. Adults over 65 usually have a suicide rate above the national average, and non-Hispanic white men age 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the country.  

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