Aspirin Makes Common Antidepressants Less Effective

Anti-inflammatory drugs interfere with SSRIs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You regularly take aspirin or ibuprofen for everyday aches and pains, along with your anti-depressants. You also notice that you're still having symptoms of depression. It turns out the aspirin is interfering with your anti-depressants.

A new study shows that aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs make SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac and Celexa less effective.

This surprising discovery may explain why so many depressed patients taking SSRIs do not respond to antidepressant treatment, a situation that can be prevented.

"Common pain relievers make antidepressants less effective."

Researchers found that antidepressants were effective in 54 percent of patients not taking anti-inflammatory drugs; but only 40 percent of depressed patients taking SSRIs responded well if they were using aspirin and other anti-inflammatories.

The study may be especially significant in the case of Alzheimer's disease. Such patients commonly suffer from depression and unless this can be treated successfully, the course of the illness is likely to be more severe.

Depression in the elderly is also a risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease, and researchers have suggested that treating depression in the elderly might reduce the risk of developing the disease.

Lead author Paul Greengard, Ph.D. of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at The Rockefeller University, said, "Many elderly individuals suffering from depression also have arthritic or related diseases and as a consequence are taking both antidepressant and anti-inflammatory medications.

Our results suggest that physicians should carefully balance the advantages and disadvantages of continuing anti-inflammatory therapy in patients being treated with antidepressant medications."

The study will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In Depth

  • Investigators treated mice with antidepressants in the presence or absence of anti-inflammatory drugs
  • They then examined how the mice behaved in tasks that are sensitive to antidepressant treatment
  • The behavioral responses to antidepressants were inhibited by anti-inflammatory/analgesic treatments
  • They then confirmed these effects in a human population. Depressed individuals who reported anti-inflammatory drug use were much less likely to have their symptoms relieved by an antidepressant than depressed patients who reported no anti-inflammatory drug use
  • The effect was rather dramatic since, in the absence of any anti-inflammatory or analgesic use, 54 percent of patients responded to the antidepressant, whereas success rates dropped to approximately 40 percent for those who reported using anti-inflammatory agents
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 26, 2011
Last Updated:
May 26, 2011