The findings of a new study suggest that the antidepressant Lexapro does little to help treat depression among individuals with heart failure.
With depression being a frequent problem among patients diagnosed with heart failure, researchers from Germany conducted a clinical trial to see if a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) helped alleviate the symptoms. They tested the drug Lexapro and found that it failed to decrease symptoms of depression or the risk of death or hospitalization.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on June 28, involving a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, where half of the 372 patients were given Lexapro (escitalopram) and the other half were given a placebo. The duration of the study was 24 months.
According to the findings of the study, known as MOOD-HF, there were virtually no significant benefits with Lexapro among heart failure patients.
“In patients with chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction and depression, 18 months of escitalopram compared with placebo did not significantly reduce all-cause mortality or hospitalization, and there was no significant improvement in depression,” the researchers concluded. “These findings do not support the use of escitalopram in patients with chronic systolic heart failure and depression.”
Several years ago, researchers and health regulators in the U.S. and Canada raised concerns that, in fact, Lexapro could increase the risk of heart problems.
Escitalopram was introduced in the United States in August 2002, under the brand name Lexapro, for treatment of major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. The medication has similar pharmacology to citalopram, which is marketed under the brand name Celexa in the United States.
In August 2011, the FDA issued a drug safety communication warning that side effects of Celexa may cause abnormal heart rhythms at high doses.
In 2013, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that the two drugs could affect electrical activity in the heart known as the QT interval. The study found a dose-specific response with Lexapro, Celexa, and Elavil, but not other antidepressants.