The Vancouver Sun
By Sharon Kirkey
June 14, 2010
The risk of coronary heart disease and a cluster of conditions known as metabolic syndrome increases soon after otherwise healthy, but depressed people are started on psychiatric drugs, putting them at risk for an early death, Canadian researchers are reporting.
Antidepressants, antipsychotics and other psychoactive drugs are the second most-prescribed drug class in the country, second only to cardiovasculars, according to prescription drug-tracking firm IMS Health Canada.
Across Canada, retail pharmacies last year dispensed 61.2 million prescriptions for psychotherapeutics, worth nearly $2.4 billion.
“Usually five of the top 10 prescribed medications worldwide are psychiatric drugs. We need to start looking at the impact of these medications on other systems,” says Dr. Valerie Taylor, an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at St. Joseph’s health care and McMaster University in Hamilton.
In a study published this week in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Taylor and her colleagues followed 52 patients, age 16 to 40, newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.
Many were university students who had become ill for the first time. All were “treatment naive” — they had never before been treated for a psychiatric illness.
At the start of the study, researchers measured waist circumference, blood pressure, blood fats and other markers of metabolic syndrome — the name for a grab-bag of health problems that increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
People with metabolic syndrome are twice as likely to die from, and three times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to people without the disorder. They also have up to a nine-fold greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.