Widespread Antidepressant Use in Alzheimer’s is Concerning

black man depression
black man depression
The efficacy of antidepressants in Alzheimer's is still controversial.

Antidepressant use was higher in patients with Alzheimer’s disease than in patients without, according to a study published in International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

Researchers from Finland conducted a study to evaluate the incidence of antidepressant use in patients with and without Alzheimer’s disease from 9 years prior to 4 years after Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and to assess the incidence of different antidepressants. 

Using register-based data from the Medication use and Alzheimer’s disease cohort of all Finnish patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2005-2011, the team identified 62 104 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 62 104 age- and gender-matched comparators. Data from the Prescription Register provided information on antidepressant drugs that were dispensed during 1995–2012. Incidence rate between patients with and without Alzheimer’s disease was compared using Poisson regression.

Study results indicated a higher incidence of antidepressant use in patients with Alzheimer’s disease during the overall study period vs patients without Alzheimer’s disease. The highest rate was seen at 6 months post-diagnosis (rate ratio 5.22, 95% CI: 4.77–5.72). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were the most frequent group of antidepressants that were initiated among Alzheimer’s disease patients (61.3%). 

Researchers noted the higher antidepressant use was not attributed to a history of hospital-treated psychiatric disorders. Growing use of antidepressants in patients with Alzheimer’s disease is of concern since their “efficacy is controversial and their use is associated with adverse events,” the authors concluded.


Puranen A, Taipale H, Koponen M, et al. Incidence of antidepressant use in community-dwelling persons with and without Alzheimer’s disease: 13-year follow-up. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2016; doi:10.1002/gps.4450.

This article originally appeared on MPR