Alzheimer’s: Antidepressants Increase Risk of Head and Traumatic Brain Injuries

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Heidi Taipale, PhD Pharm Senior Researcher School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland; and Department of Clinical Neuroscience Karolinska Institutet 

Dr. Taipale

Heidi Taipale, PhD Pharm
Senior Researcher
School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland; and
Department of Clinical Neuroscience
Karolinska Institutet 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Antidepressant use among older persons has been associated with an increased risk of falling and fall-related events, such as hip fractures, in previous studies. Our previous study identified risk of hip fractures in antidepressant among persons with Alzheimer’s disease. As falling is the main causal factor for head traumas and traumatic brain injuries among older persons, we hypothesized that antidepressant use could also be associated with these injuries.

We utilized a nationwide cohort of 70,718 persons newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, identified from the Finnish registers. The risk of head injuries and traumatic brain injuries was compared between persons initiating antidepressant use and comparison persons of the same age, gender and time since they received diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease but not using antidepressants. We found a 40-percent increased risk of head injuries and 30-percent increased risk of traumatic brain injuries associated with antidepressant use. Antidepressant use was associated with a higher risk of head injuries especially at the beginning of use – during the first 30 days – but the risk persisted even longer, up to two years. The association was also confirmed in a study design comparing time periods within the same person, thus eliminating selective factors.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Our study population consisted of community-dwelling persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The risk of head and traumatic brain injuries in antidepressant use has not been studied before and the results should be confirmed in further studies. It is likely that the risk may also be found in older persons in general and not restricted to persons with a dementia disorder. Clinicians should always weight benefits and risks of any pharmacotherapy in older persons as due to aging-related changes they may experience adverse drug events more often than younger or middle-aged persons.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The risk of head traumas and traumatic brain injuries should be investigated in general older populations to determine whether the risk is similar than in our study. In addition, further studies should also focus on other psychotropic drugs, such as antipsychotics and benzodiazepines which have similar fall-risk increasing properties as antidepressants. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: I have participated in research projects funded by Janssen and Eli Lilly with grants paid to the employer institution. No funding was received for this study.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation: Heidi Taipale, Marjaana Koponen, Antti Tanskanen, Piia Lavikainen, Reijo Sund, Jari Tiihonen, Sirpa Hartikainen, Anna-Maija Tolppanen. Risk of head and traumatic brain injuries associated with antidepressant use among community-dwelling persons with Alzheimer’s disease: a nationwide matched cohort study. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, 2017; 9 (1) DOI: 1186/s13195-017-0285-3

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions. 

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