Sudden death is a pretty severe side affect for a so-called medicine that claims to improve the users mental health.
Yet the list of antidepressants causing sudden death caused by inducing changes in the heart’s electrical pulse and heart beat rhythm continues to grow.
Back in 2009 a study known as the Nurses’ Health Study examined 63, 469 women who were free from any coronary disease, stroke or malignancy to see if there was a correlation between their symptoms of depression, the use of antidepressant drugs and sudden cardiac death.
The findings published in “The Journal of the American College of Cardiology” by a team of doctors from Columbia University in New York contained some facts they were surprised to find.
The study looked at this large group of women who had never had any heart disease but had been diagnosed with clinical depression. As expected, the more severe the depression the greater the risk of sudden heart failure. This had been known before.
But they also found that the risk of death was not due to the depression alone, but to the prescription medications used to treat it.
The women clinically diagnosed with depression and taking antidepressants were over 2 times more likely to experience sudden cardiac death compared to those women not taking the drugs.
Later, in 2011, a safety alert was put out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about an antidepressant called Celexa. The FDA stated in its warning that this drug could cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of a person’s heart. These were changes that created abnormal heart rhythms and fatal heart attacks.
The drug was not taken off the market.
In January of 2013, the “The British Medical Journal” issued a report on a large study done through a large New England healthcare system comprising two academic medical centers and outpatient clinics. There were 38,397 adult patients all who had taken antidepressants or methadone between February 1990 and August 2011 and all who had electocardiograms recorded after taking these drugs.
In this report scientific evidence shows Celexa as well as other antidepressant drugs do lead to sudden death.
The heat beat is regulated by electrical impulses which can be measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG). The machine prints out the heart beat wave pattern and labels points on the paper as Q, R, S, and T.
Some drugs were shown to vary the ECG graphs by lengthening the time of heart beat cycle between QT. The only way to know this is happening is through an ECG.
The person with a lengthened QT cycle experiences no symptoms.
It just causes sudden death with absolutely no warning of any kind.
Clelexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft were some of the antidepressants leading to longer QT and the sudden death syndrome. Methadone has long been known to do this and scored the highest of all the drugs in this study.
One drug, Zyban, shortened the QT cycle. But this is not good either. It causes palpitations and fainting, and ultimately it too can result in sudden cardiac arrest.
Overall, one in five subjects taking these drugs experienced abnormal ECGs, and specifically longer Q-T intervals.
This known risk of sudden death is certainly not being explained to each person when he’s being prescribed an antidepressant by a psychiatrist or doctor. Properly informed, a patient could make a knowing decision to go ahead and take the drug or not but this risk is rarely explained to them.
The doctors and psychiatrists continue to talk in terms of “statistical risk” vs “benefits” and “further studies are needed.”
But Kathleen Barnes, writing in an article discussing the increased number of sudden cardiac arrest in women taking antidepressants, summed it up perfectly.
“I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to take these drugs, especially in light of the likelihood that:
1. They don’t work 2. They might kill you”
Given the correct information about these drugs, most people would take Ms. Barnes’ advice.