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Concept: Sertraline


Objective To study serious harms associated with selective serotonin and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.Main outcome measures Mortality and suicidality. Secondary outcomes were aggressive behaviour and akathisia.Data sources Clinical study reports for duloxetine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine obtained from the European and UK drug regulators, and summary trial reports for duloxetine and fluoxetine from Eli Lilly’s website.Eligibility criteria for study selection Double blind placebo controlled trials that contained any patient narratives or individual patient listings of harms.Data extraction and analysis Two researchers extracted data independently; the outcomes were meta-analysed by Peto’s exact method (fixed effect model).Results We included 70 trials (64 381 pages of clinical study reports) with 18 526 patients. These trials had limitations in the study design and discrepancies in reporting, which may have led to serious under-reporting of harms. For example, some outcomes appeared only in individual patient listings in appendices, which we had for only 32 trials, and we did not have case report forms for any of the trials. Differences in mortality (all deaths were in adults, odds ratio 1.28, 95% confidence interval 0.40 to 4.06), suicidality (1.21, 0.84 to 1.74), and akathisia (2.04, 0.93 to 4.48) were not significant, whereas patients taking antidepressants displayed more aggressive behaviour (1.93, 1.26 to 2.95). For adults, the odds ratios were 0.81 (0.51 to 1.28) for suicidality, 1.09 (0.55 to 2.14) for aggression, and 2.00 (0.79 to 5.04) for akathisia. The corresponding values for children and adolescents were 2.39 (1.31 to 4.33), 2.79 (1.62 to 4.81), and 2.15 (0.48 to 9.65). In the summary trial reports on Eli Lilly’s website, almost all deaths were noted, but all suicidal ideation events were missing, and the information on the remaining outcomes was incomplete.Conclusions Because of the shortcomings identified and having only partial access to appendices with no access to case report forms, the harms could not be estimated accurately. In adults there was no significant increase in all four outcomes, but in children and adolescents the risk of suicidality and aggression doubled. To elucidate the harms reliably, access to anonymised individual patient data is needed.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Medical statistics, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Sertraline, Fluoxetine, Venlafaxine


Individuals with a history of recurrent depression have a high risk of repeated depressive relapse or recurrence. Maintenance antidepressants for at least 2 years is the current recommended treatment, but many individuals are interested in alternatives to medication. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been shown to reduce risk of relapse or recurrence compared with usual care, but has not yet been compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in a definitive trial. We aimed to see whether MBCT with support to taper or discontinue antidepressant treatment (MBCT-TS) was superior to maintenance antidepressants for prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence over 24 months.

Concepts: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Bupropion, Sertraline, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy


The recent questioning of the antidepressant effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is partly based on the observation that approximately half of company-sponsored trials have failed to reveal a significant difference between active drug and placebo. Most of these have applied the Hamilton depression rating scale to assess symptom severity, the sum score for its 17 items (HDRS-17-sum) serving as effect parameter. In this study, we examined whether the negative outcomes of many SSRI trials may be partly caused by the use of this frequently questioned measure of response. We undertook patient-level post-hoc analyses of 18 industry-sponsored placebo-controlled trials regarding paroxetine, citalopram, sertraline or fluoxetine, and including in total 6669 adults with major depression, the aim being to assess what the outcome would have been if the single item depressed mood (rated 0-4) had been used as a measure of efficacy. In total, 32 drug-placebo comparisons were reassessed. While 18 out of 32 comparisons (56%) failed to separate active drug from placebo at week 6 with respect to reduction in HDRS-17-sum, only 3 out of 32 comparisons (9%) were negative when depressed mood was used as an effect parameter (P<0.001). The observation that 29 out of 32 comparisons detected an antidepressant signal from the tested SSRI suggests the effect of these drugs to be more consistent across trials than previously assumed. Further, the frequent use of the HDRS-17-sum as an effect parameter may have distorted the current view on the usefulness of SSRIs and hampered the development of novel antidepressants.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 28 April 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.53.

Concepts: Serotonin, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Major depressive disorder, Sertraline, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Venlafaxine


Hypothesised associations between in utero exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and congenital anomalies, particularly congenital heart defects (CHD), remain controversial. We investigated the putative teratogenicity of SSRI prescription in the 91 days either side of first day of last menstrual period (LMP).

Concepts: Serotonin, Fluvoxamine, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Reuptake inhibitor, Fluoxetine


To estimate the association between prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and motor development in children considering the effect of maternal symptoms of anxiety and depression before, during and after pregnancy.

Concepts: Serotonin, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Major depressive disorder, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Reuptake inhibitor, Fluoxetine


Current antidepressants used to treat pediatric patients have the disadvantage of limited efficacy and potentially serious side effects. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of vitamin C as an adjuvant agent in the treatment of pediatric major depressive disorder in a six-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial.

Concepts: Serotonin, Citalopram, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Major depressive disorder, Sertraline, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Venlafaxine



Antidepressant drugs such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) remediate negative biases in emotional processing in depressed patients in both behavioural and neural outcome measures. However, it is not clear if these effects occur before, or as a consequence of, changes in clinical state. Method In the present study, we investigated the effects of short-term SSRI treatment in depressed patients on the neural response to fearful faces prior to clinical improvement in mood. Altogether, 42 unmedicated depressed patients received SSRI treatment (10 mg escitalopram daily) or placebo in a randomised, parallel-group design. The neural response to fearful and happy faces was measured on day 7 of treatment using functional magnetic resonance imaging. A group of healthy controls was imaged in the same way.

Concepts: Serotonin, Antidepressant, Citalopram, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Major depressive disorder, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Fluoxetine


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants used for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Here we demonstrate that incubation (2 h) of murine islets or Min6 β cell line with the SSRIs paroxetine, fluoxetine or sertraline inhibited insulin-induced Tyr phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-2 protein and the activation of its downstream targets Akt and S6K1. Inhibition was dose-dependent with half-maximal effects at ~15-20 μM. It correlated with a rapid phosphorylation and activation of the IRS kinase GSK3β. Introduction of GSK3β-siRNAs eliminated the inhibitory effects of the SSRIs. Inhibition of IRS-2 action by 30 μM SSRIs was associated with a marked inhibition of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from murine and human pancreatic islets. Secretion induced by basic secretagogues (KCl and Arg) was not affected by these drugs. Prolonged treatment (16h) of Min6 cells with sertraline resulted in the induction of iNOS; activation of an ER stress and the initiation of the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR), manifested by enhanced transcription of ATF4 and CHOP. This triggered an apoptotic process, manifested by enhanced caspase 3/7 activity, that resulted in beta cell death. These findings implicate SSRIs as inhibitors of IRS protein function and insulin action through the activation of GSK3β. They further suggest that SSRIs inhibit insulin secretion; induce the UPR; activate an apoptotic process and trigger beta cell death. Given that SSRIs promote insulin resistance while inhibiting insulin secretion, these drugs might accelerate the transition from an insulin resistant state to overt diabetes.

Concepts: Insulin, Islets of Langerhans, Beta cell, Serotonin, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Sertraline, Fluoxetine


To follow up on previously reported associations between periconceptional use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and specific birth defects using an expanded dataset from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study.

Concepts: Serotonin, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Major depressive disorder, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Reuptake inhibitor, Fluoxetine