The commonly used antidepressant sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft) caused up to six-fold increases in build-up of atherosclerosis plaque in the coronary arteries of monkeys, according to a study in Psychosomatic Medicine.
“The medical community has known for years that depression is closely associated with heart disease, but we didn’t know if treating it would reduce the heart disease risk,” said the lead author about the reasons for the study in a press release from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
The researchers gave 42 middle-aged female monkeys a Western-like diet containing fat and cholesterol for 18 months, and noted any depressive behavior. The animals were then randomly assigned to receive either a daily dose of the SSRI Zoloft or a placebo for another 18 months.
“The monkeys that received the SSRI developed three times the amount of atherosclerosis in their coronary arteries as monkeys given the placebo,” stated the press release. “In the depressed animals, the amount was even higher — almost six times greater in the SSRI-treated animals than in those given the placebo.”
“Our findings suggest that long-term treatment with this drug promotes coronary artery atherosclerosis in non-human primates,” the lead author said in the press release. “This may be clinically significant for people because almost a quarter of middle-aged women in the United States take antidepressants, the most prescribed of which are SSRIs.”
Shively, Carol A., Thomas C. Register, Susan E. Appt, and Thomas B. Clarkson. “Effects of Long-Term Sertraline Treatment and Depression on Coronary Artery Atherosclerosis in Premenopausal Female Primates:” Psychosomatic Medicine 77, no. 3 (April 2015): 267–78. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000163. (Abstract)
Common antidepressant increased coronary atherosclerosis in animal model (Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center press release on ScienceDaily, April 6, 2015)