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Certain SSRI Antidepressants Linked to Serious Heart Risks

Filed January 30th, 2013 admin

Certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), specifically Celexa (citalopram) and Lexapro (escitalopram), can cause a heart rhythm disturbance, a new study in the British Medical Journal found.

SSRIs are a class of anti-depressants that have been linked to dangerous side effects. Regulators in the U.S. and U.K. have previously warned doctors to be extremely careful about which patients they prescribe these medicines to, BBC News said. Regulators have also lowered the maximum recommended dose in an effort to decrease side effects, which include dizziness, fainting, and sudden death.

The drugs presented increased risks for a rhythm disturbance known as long QT interval. QT interval is measured with an electrocardiogram (ECG) and varies with the heart rate. The interval becomes longer when the heart beats slower and is shorter when the heart beats faster, BBC News said. Minor variation in the QT interval is considered normal, but if the interval is too long, it can adversely affect the timing of heartbeat and lead to side effects. To determine how common a long QT linked to SSRI use might be, the researchers looked at medical records of more than 38,000 patients from New England; the majority had been prescribed either Celexa or Lexapro, or methadone, which is known to have affects on QT interval. All three were linked with a small, but significantly longer QT, interval, BBC News said.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommends that people with pre-existing heart conditions have a heart trace before going on these drugs to check for long QT interval, BBC News said.

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