Antidepressants May Weaken Bone Structure
> 1/23/2007 10:40:56 AM

In the newest development in a long-standing story, a study by Canadian clinicians provides further evidence of a link between anti-depressants and a propensity for bone fractures in older patients.

Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness among the elderly, with an estimated seven million senior citizens, or three percent of Americans 65 and over, suffering from the condition. It often goes untreated in the elderly population due to perceived social stigma and a tendency in some to write it off as a symptom of age. Experts estimate that only 50 percent of senior citizens with depression receive any form of treatment.

Antidepressants have been proven to significantly reduce blood pressure, which can lead to instances of dizziness that increase the chances of an accident. Researchers, however, found that the same drugs actually change bone structure. Many of those involved in the study are experts on osteoporosis, a degenerative bone condition that affects millions of senior citizens. The study followed five thousand Canadians aged fifty and older, 137 of whom reported taking SSRI antidepressants on a daily basis. At study's end, researchers found that the instance of bone fracture was twice as high among those on the medication. The makers of Prozac and other SSRIs have placed warnings on their drugs to address what they call a remote possibility that SSRI patients will later develop osteoporosis.

The issue is not new, and it does not end with the elderly. Independent studies have suggested that the development of bone structure in children is adversely affected by SSRIs, and tests on animals revealed that those regularly supplied with SSRIs eventually have narrower bones with less internal density. But the relationship between the two is complicated: some have also linked depression itself to weakened bone structure, insisting that the current study is not extensive enough to draw a causal link between the drugs and subsequent injuries. Some research even seems to imply the opposite, finding that antidepressants actually increase bone mass, but not all data supports that claim. And repeated studies have demonstrated that the connection between the two variables is too large to attribute to chance. As the drug manufacturers assert in repeated public statements, the elderly should be aware of potential risks when considering antidepressants, weighing the possibility of injury against the beneficial effects of the medicines in question.

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