Some antidepressants could pose a serious risk to heart health, research reveals.
The UK government has already modified their guidelines for the use of antidepressant Citalopram -- recommending that no more than 40mg be taken per day -- following concerns about how the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) could affect a person's heartbeat.
Research published today in the BMJ.com further underlines the need for caution, after a comprehensive study linked the use of SSRIs citalopram and escitalopram to abnormal heart rhythms.
After reviewing the heart rate tests of almost 4,000 American patients, scientists found a “small but significantly longer QT interval” among those taking the SSRIs.
A person’s QT interval is measured with an electrocardiogram (ECG) and varies with the heart rate, getting longer when the heart beats slower and shorter when the heart beats faster.
Authors of the study pointed out in a statement that “nearly one in five patients treated with these antidepressants who underwent electrocardiography had QT intervals which would be considered abnormal”.
However, they stressed that while longer QT interval is a risk factor for abnormal heart rhythms, these abnormal rhythms are still extremely rare, and the actual increase in QT observed was modest - so for the vast majority of patients, the potential benefits in treating depression or anxiety would far exceed the risk.