Patients ages 65 and older are more likely to suffer adverse effects from taking newer anti-depressant medications (SSRIs). Researchers believe this is due to the fact that many seniors are also on medications for other conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are considered the latest innovations in the treatment of depression. Drugs like Prozac, Celexa, and Zoloft have become the second most-popularly prescribed drugs in the United States.
Last year, more than 254 million prescriptions were written for anti-depressants in the United States, for which consumers shelled out $10 billion.
But are these drugs safe for everyone?
We know that certain SSRIs like Paxil can cause birth defects in children born to mothers who took the pills while pregnant. Now a new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that these drugs may also be dangerous to patients ages 65 and older.
The study highlighted in the British Medical Journal found that patients on SSRIs who were 65 years or older were more likely to suffer adverse effects from taking the anti-depressants than their peers who were not taking them. Furthermore, SSRIs were found to be more harmful than older anti-depressants known as tricyclics.
Researchers are not sure why SSRIs seem to pose more of a danger to seniors, but they believe it has something to do with the fact that many seniors who suffer from depression also suffer from other medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Elderly patients with these other conditions may be taking several medications at once, contributing to an adverse reaction.
The effects of SSRIs on seniors are still largely unknown because seniors are usually underrepresented in clinical trials for anti-depressants. Doctors say that as with any drug, the relative benefits of taking SSRIs must be considered along with the risks to the patient.