Some antidepressants may increase the chance of older people developing an interstitial lung disease such as bronchiectasis, a study reports.
Research has shown a jump in antidepressant use in the past several decades. Their use increased by 400 percent in the United States between the late 1990s and 2008, for example.
The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, SNRIs. Both classes of drugs are associated with the development of interstitial lung diseases such as bronchiectasis.
Researchers hypothesised that the link between antidepressants and the development of bronchiectasis and other lung diseases is more prevalent than previous studies have reported.
Their study, published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, is titled “The relationship of SSRI and SNRI usage with interstitial lung disease and bronchiectasis in an elderly population: a case–control study.”
The research covered 296 elderly people receiving geriatric care in Victoria, Canada. Doctors had used computed tomography or chest X-rays to diagnose bronchiectasis or another lung disease. Researchers examined patient charts to see which were receiving antidepressants.
The team discovered that 12 patients with a lung disease were using antidepressants. Their mean age was 89. Researchers also identified 273 controls who did not have a lung disease. Their mean age was 88.7.
Ten out of the 12 patients with a lung disease had used antidepressants at one time or another, compared with 99 out of the 273 controls.
A statistical analysis showed a significant association between antidepressant use and patients’ development of a lung disease.
Researchers cautioned that the study involved a group which the team described as “frail elderly.” Elderly people who are not as old may need to be exposed to antidepressants much longer before developing a lung disease, the team aid.
This is supported by reports indicating that it’s rare for young people to develop an antidepressant-related lung disease despite an estimated 11 percent of Americans above the age of 11 taking the drugs.
The association between older people’s use of antidepressants and their developing a lung disease may be underreported, the researchers said. They think many doctors may be unaware of a lung disease because it has symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue that are common to this age group.
The results suggest that doctors should prescribe antidepressants with care, minimizing the dose and period of treatment and considering alternative treatments where appropriate.
Antidepressants “were significantly associated with the risk of ILD/B [bronchiectasis or another lung disease] in this elderly population,” the team wrote. “Because of their widespread usage, further studies should be done to validate these findings. Prescribers should cautiously monitor patients for development of insidious pulmonary [lung] symptoms when these drugs are used.”