A study published Monday demonstrated a significantly increased risk of broken bones in adults 50 years and older who were taking a type of popular antidepressant, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Zoloft and Prozac are two popular brands of antidepressants studied. People aged 50 and older who took the antidepressants faced double the risk of broken bones during five years of follow-up, compared with those who didn’t use the drugs, the study, which appeared in today’s Archives of Internal Medicine, found.
Antidepressants have also been linked with low blood pressure and dizziness leading to falls, which can increase risks for broken bones, but the researchers said they found fracture risks independent of those factors.
The study tracked 5,008 Canadians aged 50 years old and older for five years. They included 137 people who reported using SSRI antidepressants daily. In this smaller group, 18 people or 13.5 percent had bone fractures during the follow-up, compared with 317 people with fractures or 6.5 percent among the 4,871 who didn’t take the pills. Broken forearms, ankles, feet, hips and ribs were the most common fractures.
While additional research is needed to prove the link, the Candian study provides the strongest evidence yet tying these drugs to fracture risks, said Dr. David Goltzman, an endocrinologist at McGill University in Montreal and one of the study authors. The results have important public health implications since millions of people worldwide use the drugs and because osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that can lead to broken bones, can be so debilitating for older adults, Goltzman said.
“If patients need these drugs, they should not be advised against taking them because of the fracture risk. They should however be warned about the risks,” Goltzman said.