Antidepressants may increase risk of death by 20 percent for those with progressive lung disease

June 26, 2018, St. Michael's Hospital
Study from St. Michael's Hospital finds antidepressants may increase risk of death by 20 percent for people with progressive lung disease. Credit: St. Michael's Hospital

Antidepressant use in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with a 20 per cent increase in likelihood of death and a 15 per cent increase in likelihood of hospitalization due to related symptoms, finds a new study led by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital.

Published today in the European Respiratory Journal, the research suggests that amongst adults with COPD, new users of serotonergic antidepressants—a specific class of the —have higher rates of hospitalization, , and mortality related to respiratory conditions, as well as death overall versus non-users of the medications. While the study does not show cause and effect, it suggests strong association.

"We were not surprised by these findings, as there are biological reasons why antidepressants could lead to respiratory issues," said Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital and the lead author. "These drugs can cause sleepiness, vomiting and can negatively impact immune system cells. This increases the likelihood of infections, breathing issues, and other respiratory adverse events, especially in patients with COPD."

COPD is a progressive lung disease that causes increasing breathlessness. It affects more than 10 per cent of those aged 40 and older worldwide. Because of the nature of the disease, upwards of 70 per cent of those with COPD also struggle with symptoms of low mood and anxiety, said Dr. Vozoris, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto and a respirologist at St. Michael's.

Using health administrative databases from the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Dr. Vozoris and his team studied 28,360 new users of serotonergic antidepressants with COPD aged 66 and older and matched them to an equivalent amount of non-users. The analysis revealed that among older adults with COPD, new users of this class of medication have modest, but significant, increases in rates of breathing-related death and all causes of death. The research showed a strong association, but not a definite cause and effect.

"The study results should not cause alarm among those who use these medications, but rather increase caution among patients and physicians," Dr. Vozoris said. "I hope our study encourages increased awareness when prescribing these medications and monitoring for adverse side effects. Also, because there is this association, we as physicians should give thought to psychotherapy and pulmonary rehabilitation as non-drug related treatment."

Dr. Vozoris plans to continue to study other classes of medications used for treatment of psychological issues in patients with COPD to build a more complete picture of medication risks.

Explore further: Study finds adverse respiratory outcomes for older people with COPD taking benzodiazepines

Related Stories

Study finds adverse respiratory outcomes for older people with COPD taking benzodiazepines

April 17, 2014
A group of drugs commonly prescribed for insomnia, anxiety and breathing issues "significantly increase the risk" that older people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, need to visit a doctor or Emergency ...

New opioid use in older adults with COPD associated with increased risk of death

July 14, 2016
Older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who start using opioids have a more than two-fold higher risk of dying from a respiratory-related complication compared to non-opioid users, St. Michael's Hospital researchers ...

New opioid use in older adults with COPD associated with increased risk of cardiac death

June 29, 2017
Older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder who recently started using opioids have an increased risk of coronary artery disease-related death compared to non-opioid users, researchers at St. Michael's Hospital ...

Frequently prescribed drug used in concerning ways with harmful side effects

February 6, 2013
A popular class of drugs commonly used to treat sleep and mood symptoms continues to be frequently prescribed despite being known to have potentially life-threatening side effects.

High opioid use in older people with COPD raises safety concerns

October 2, 2015
Researchers are raising safety concerns about high rates of new opioid use among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to a new study published today in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Risk of adverse medication reactions to people with COPD

January 15, 2018
Those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), together with other chronic illnesses, are at greater risk of adverse medication reactions, according to a new study‌.

Recommended for you

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Urbanisation and air travel leading to growing risk of pandemic

December 13, 2018
Increased arrivals by air and urbanisation are the two main factors leading to a growing vulnerability to pandemics in our cities, a University of Sydney research team has found.

Researchers discover new interactions between Ebola virus and human proteins

December 13, 2018
Several new connections have been discovered between the proteins of the Ebola virus and human host cells, a finding that provides insight on ways to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from reproducing and could lead to novel ...

Faecal transplants, 'robotic guts' and the fight against deadly gut bugs

December 13, 2018
A simple compound found in our gut could help to stop dangerous bacteria behind severe, and sometimes fatal, hospital infections.

Taking the virus out of a mosquito's bite

December 12, 2018
They approach with the telltale sign—a high-pitched whine. It's a warning that you are a mosquito's next meal. But that mosquito might carry a virus, and now the virus is in you. Now, with the help of state-of-the-art technology, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.