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Nancy Schimelpfening

Antidepressants Linked to Increased Risk for Heart Arrhythmia, Sudden Death

By February 12, 2013

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Patients who are taking high doses of two antidepressants - citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro) - could be at risk for developing QT-interval prolongation, according to a study published online on January 29, 2013 in the British Medical Journal.

QT-interval prolongation is significant because it is a marker for increased risk of ventricular arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) and sudden death,

When Dr. Roy H. Perlis of Massachusetts General Hospital and his team examined the records of 38,000 people, they found what they described as a "slight but significant" association between QT-interval lengthening and prescriptions for these two medications.  However, certain other antidepressants - fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), duloxetine (Cymbalta), mirtazapine (Remeron), nortriptyline (Pamelor) and venlafaxine (Effexor) - did not show this effect.  And, buproprion (Wellbutrin) was associated with a shortening of the QT- interval.

The effect increased with higher doses, suggesting a dose-response association, according to Perlis.

Perlis concludes, however, that, for most, the benefits of these antidepressants still outweigh the risks, especially if you do not have any risk factors for heart arrhythmias and are taking a lower dose.

"The take-home message," said Perlis, "is that most of the newer antidepressants are very safe from a heart-rhythm perspective.  I worry more about people stopping their antidepressants unnecessarily than about the QT-prolongation risks."

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Comments
February 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm
(1) MK Gilbert says:

What about Cymbalta? I’ve been on it for over 5 yrs and my resting pulse runs high and is easily pushed higher (it’s been up to 130) when I take many meds including OTC cold meds, Wellbutrin, and other meds they’ve tried me on for anxiety/depression. I had a prolonged Q-T segment on my EKG, plus a slightly enlarged ventricle wall. Can long-term use of Cymbalta cause heart problems in an overly-sensitive person like me? Or are the heart problems due to long-term chronic fatigue? (25 yrs.)

February 20, 2013 at 4:52 am
(2) Julia says:

I have just read the link where it says antidepressants linked to Arrhytmia. I believe it 100%. Last year I started getting arrhytmia and went for an ablation they could not find the cause but I have been on citalopram for 3 years. The doc at the time said that it may be the cause. Glad I saw this.

February 20, 2013 at 6:32 am
(3) Suzy says:

I totally believe that Arrhthymia can be caused by anti-depressants, and other drugs for mental health.. For instance, about 18 years ago, a former p-doc started me for the first time on Lithium. After a couple of weeks in treatment, I started developing Arrhthymia in the hospital and was immediately taken off Lithium.

Fast forward to today: I’ve been on Prozac, 40mg, since 1997, and Wellbutrin, 100mg (small-med dose), since 2005. My EKG for the first time in years came out, according to my PHP, “funky.” So he ordered a stress test and I couldn’t complete it b/c of my cervical dystonia and the chronic pain associated with it. Now I have to get a similar test, but it’s with medication to speed up the heart.

Thanks, that was a great article.

February 20, 2013 at 9:12 am
(4) Angie says:

I as well experienced rapid heart rate while taking Celexa. Not all of the time but it would happen out of the blue without reason or patten. Celexa also fogged my brain making it difficult, if not impossible, for me to concentrate or focus. My hearing would also fade in and out. Taking Celexa trashed my professional career. I am now on Lamictal and trying to pick up the pieces.

February 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm
(5) cleetis says:

I just don’t know what to think about this.

May 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm
(6) Martin Crumlish & Greg Jacobs Emperor Social says:

Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the
great spirit.

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