Modern Antidepressants Not Safe for Seniors

Tim Watt  |  August 23, 2011

Older couple in bedA new study showed that modern antidepressants that are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may not be safe for older patients. Researchers discovered that the consumption of these pills was associated with an increased risk in "severe adverse outcomes" including stroke, falls, fractures, seizures and epilepsy, among other conditions.

In fact, depressed patients who weren't taking any medication had a lower mortality risk (7 percent) than those who were being medicated with SSRIs, 10.6 percent of whom suffered a fatal outcome within a year.

The drugs that were most dangerous appeared to be trazodone, mirtazapine and venlaxfaxine. The riskiest period for patients was 28 days after beginning the medication and 28 days after ending it.

"The study has clear implications for more informed prescribing and enhanced clinical monitoring," said professor Ian Hickie. "Given the potential harms, the decision to prescribe for an older person with depression should not be taken lightly." estimates that more than half of older patients don't take their medications correctly. In assisted living facilities, there are professionals who work to carefully monitor medication management, but seniors living alone can be at a higher risk for depression and are much more likely to fail to adhere to prescription instructions, according to the website. 

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