The introduction of fluoxetine (Prozac) has been followed by a substantial drop in the rate of suicides, a new study reports.
The findings are the latest to suggest SSRIs may reduce the risk of suicidal behaviour on a population level – easing concerns over their potential risks.
US researchers found a significant association between a jump in the rate of fluoxetine prescribing since 1988 and a parallel fall in the suicide rate.
Fluoxetine scripts leapt in the US from 2.5 million in 1988 to 33.3 million in 2002. And while suicide rates fluctuated between 12.2 and 13.7 per 100,000 population from the early 1960s until 1988, they have since fallen to a lowest rate of 10.4 in 2000.
Study leader Dr Julio Licinio, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of
Miami, said: 'These types of data cannot lead to conclusions on causality, but we suggest antidepressants could have had a role in the suicide rate reduction.'
The research was published in the June issue of Public Library of Science Medicine.