Older antidepressants considered safer for seniors, study finds

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Caregiver coalition protests CMS Medicare ruling
Caregiver coalition protests CMS Medicare ruling

Elderly patients being treated for depression may have better luck and fewer side effects with older tricyclic antidepressants rather than newer, more popular antidepressants such as Effexor and Prozac, a new study reports.

Researchers say that while newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are generally considered safe and effective, there have been fewer studies testing their safety and efficacy in senior citizens. SSRIs, which include Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft, recently have been linked to an increase in falls in the elderly. However, British researchers say tricyclics could be safer in people over 65, especially those at risk for falls.

The University of Nottingham analyzed prescription data of more than 60,000 patients between the ages 65 and 100 who had recently been diagnosed with depression. They found that seniors taking SSRIs have a higher risk of dying, having a stroke, falling, breaking a bone or having seizure than seniors not on antidepressants.

Additionally, within one year, 10.6% of this group of seniors taking SSRIs died. Eight percent of seniors taking tricyclics died, versus 7% of seniors taking no antidepressants.

"When you find the right medication, it can be a lifesaver. But it's so complicated, seniors need to have an ongoing conversation with their doctors," researcher Angie Hochhalter, Ph.D., told HealthDay News.

The study was published in Aug. 2 issue of BMJ (British Medical Journal).

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