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Heartening Responses: Depression drugs may aid survival after heart attack

Each year, about 200,000 U.S. survivors of heart attacks or related cardiac problems develop major depression, a condition that sharply boosts their chances of having a potentially fatal heart attack. An analysis of data from a large, federally funded clinical trial indicates that when such patients take antidepressant medication of the class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), they reap major heart-health benefits.

In the 29 months after experiencing a heart attack, depressed patients who happened to be taking SSRIs displayed only 57 percent as many bad outcomes—new heart attacks and deaths from cardiac causes—as did depressed heart attack survivors who weren't taking SSRIs. A team led by psychiatrist C. Barr Taylor of Stanford (Calif.) Medical Center reports these findings in the July Archives of General Psychiatry.

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