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Antidepressants Associated with Increased Death in People Suffering from COPD

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For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) taking a Serotonergic (SSRI/SNRI) antidepressant may increase the risk for death by 20% and hospitalization by 15%. A study carried out by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario in Canada was published June 26, 2018, in the European Respiratory Journal. The lead author, Dr. Nicholas Vozoris said these results were not surprising, as these kinds of antidepressants can cause drowsiness, vomiting and can also have a negative impact on cells of the immune system.

List of SSRI/SNRI Antidepressants

A list of SSRI/SNRI Antidepressants that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are among the most common ones in use are:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)

The researchers studied 28,360 new users of serotonergic antidepressants who had COPD and were aged 66 and older. They matched them to an equivalent amount of people with COPD who were not using antidepressants. The study did not show a direct cause and effect of increased death or hospitalization, but rather shows a strong association for seniors with COPD who also use these kinds of antidepressants. Doctors should exercise caution when prescribing these kinds of antidepressants to seniors suffering from COPD and patients should perhaps try other non-pharmacological methods to deal with depression like psychotherapy.

COPD is Third Cause of Death in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD is a progressive lung disease that affects more than 15 million Americans and is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. More than 140,000 Americans die every year from COPD, which is one death every four minutes.. COPD can be prevented in most people, as smoking is the number one cause in most cases and accounts for 75% of the deaths from COPD However, 1 in 4 people affected by it have never smoked, so genetic and environmental factors may also play a part like air pollution, second-hand smoke, industrial fumes, etc. The main symptoms are difficulty in breathing and feeling out of breath. Any kind of physical exertion makes it more difficult to breathe. For more about COPD please see our blog post from June 20, 2018.

Affects Quality of Life

COPD is a disease that can have a significant effect on the quality of life, as it often leads to needing an oxygen tank, not being able to walk up the stairs, go hiking, biking, climbing uphill and being more vulnerable to respiratory diseases like colds and flu, so it is not surprising that some people affected by it sink into depression and turn to antidepressant drugs.

Managing Living with COPD

The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP)

The CDC offers a six week inter-active workshop for people suffering from COPD and other kinds of chronic illnesses that meets for two and a half hours a week in a community location. This was developed by Stanford University. The workshop is led by trained leaders, some of whom also suffer from a chronic disease. One of the subjects they teach is how to manage feelings of depression, isolation, fatigue and pain.

Short or Long-Term Rehabilitation

If you or your loved one needs special care for COPD, or are after lung surgery you may want to go to a short or long-term rehab like the Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center in Brooklyn NY. Ditmas Park is a 5-star rehab known far and wide for its expertise in pulmonary rehabilitation.

Brooklyn Hospitals Near Ditmas Park Rehab Care

New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn (formerly named NYU Lutheran Medical Center)

SUNY Downstate Medical Center – University Hospital of Brooklyn

NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County

Maimonides Medical Center


If you or your loved one have COPD and are taking a Serotonergic (SSRI/SNRI) antidepressant you might want to consult with your doctor about continuing with this treatment or finding a different one.

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