Antidepressant medications like Prozac and Zoloft have been around for decades and have an amazing safety track record. For the first 20 years of use, these medications were also considered extremely safe in pregnancy as well, and this was greatly reassuring as there are more and more woman of child-baring age on these drugs. Then, a few years ago, there were some questions raised about safety, and since then, further data has been somewhat mixed about ‘complete safety’ for pregnant women.
This latest study of a very large population, over 900,000, shows that there is no increase in heart defects in children of woman who were on anti-depressants like Prozac during their first trimester. This type of large data set goes a long way toward giving us confidence that using such medications during pregnancy remains safe.
Why would you give mice Prozac? Well……not to improve their moods. Have you ever seen a depressed mouse??? I didn’t think so.
Researchers used Citalopram (a medication quite similar to Prozac as it is an SSRI….Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitor) in mice to see if this reduced the production of Beta-Amyloid protein in their brains, as this protein over-production and accumulation is strongly associated with the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Citalopram strongly reduced the accumulation of this protein, and in human volunteers, it reduced the amount of Beta-amyloid protein found in the cerebrospinal fluid.
Could Prozac and similar medications help prevent Alzheimer’s disease? This data is suggestive, but further studies will be required to further elucidate the connection. In the meanwhile, patients on these medications can take some comfort in the idea that they are getting protections while also treating their mood and anxiety symptoms. Rather than worrying ‘what is the medication doing to harm me’, it’s nice to think that such medications may be providing additional benefits beyond what we imagined.