Antidepressants Implicated in Type 2 Diabetes

Lauren Brown, a researcher with the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, Canada, found that <"">antidepressants are linked to type 2 Diabetes.  While reviewing information from Saskatchewan health databases, Brown discovered that people with a history of depression had a 30 percent increased risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.  Brown then studied the medical history of 2,400 people who were diagnosed with depression and were also taking antidepressants in order to determine whether there was a clear correlation between that disease and type 2 Diabetes.

Brown divided the group into four categories:  People who took antidepressants that were considered older therapies, patients who were using newer treatments, patients using a combination of both an old and new treatments, and those who were switching medications.  Brown’s study revealed that the risk of diabetes almost doubled for the patients who were using two types of therapies at the same time:  Ticyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  Brown says people are usually prescribed multiple medications “if they have severe depression or if they are having a problem finding the right therapy” and believes these results, and results of previous studies demonstrating an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in people with depression, emphasize the need for more regular screening for type 2 diabetes in people suffering from depression, particularly those who are taking more than one antidepressant.  She also encourages diabetes and depression organizations to educate their members about this disease-medication link.

This isn’t the first time antidepressants have been in the news in recent months.  According to Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University Medical Center, warnings that antidepressants might increase suicidal behavior in youth slowed rapid growth of these drugs but did not eliminate  the drugs from young people’s access.  In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its strongest warning—a black box—on all antidepressant use in children and teens to draw attention to these medications’ possible risks.  Olfson and colleagues wanted to see the overall impact of the public health warnings and of the FDA’s black box warning and reviewed U.S. prescription data from before the FDA’s June 2003 warning to monitor adolescents taking GlaxoSmithKline’s antidepressant Paxil—the generic paroxetine hydrochloride—for signs of worsening depression and suicidal thoughts.  Researchers also studied antidepressant use in the period leading up to the black box and the period 15 months following the warnings.

“When the warnings first appeared, there was a great deal of concern among psychiatrists and other mental health professionals that these warnings would result in a precipitous decline in antidepressant use by young people, and as a result, youth with depression would have less access to treatment,” said Olfson.  “What we found is the FDA warnings had a relatively moderate and targeted effect in slowing the growth of antidepressant use by children,” Olfson said.  U.S. and European regulators sent out a series of public health warnings in 2003 after clinical trials showed the drugs increased the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children and teens.

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