Antidepressants may increase diabetes risk

October 10, 2013

Evidence exists that antidepressants may be an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes, however causality has not been established, according to a recent study in Diabetes Care.

Evidence exists that antidepressants may be an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes, however causality has not been established, according to a recent study in Diabetes Care.

In a systemic review, researchers from the United Kingdom synthesized all of the existing evidence on antidepressants as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Lead author Katharine Barnard, PhD, University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and colleagues identified 1 study that included 17 individual reports of blood sugar changes associated with antidepressant use. In those reports, patients who had glycemic levels in the normal range developed high blood sugar levels from 3 weeks to 5 months following antidepressant initiation. After patients stopped taking the antidepressants, glycemis levels returned to normal.

The researchers also identified 21 studies of 1,000 to more than 200,000 participants and the results were conflicting, Reuters reported. For example, in 1 study of more than 160,000 individuals with depression, researchers noted that 2,200 developed diabetes. Those individuals who were prescribed antidepressants at moderate to high doses for more than 2 years were 84% more likely to develop diabetes than the individuals who were not taking antidepressants recently.

Other studies in the report showed that the link between antidepressant use and diabetes was weaker, or could have been attributed to chance, Reuters reported.

The researchers noted that certain antidepressants may lead to weight gain, and that could be associated with a higher risk of diabetes. However, some studies accounted for weight gain and still indicated a link between the antidepressant use and diabetes.

“These findings are pertinent because as prescribers, it is important to be aware that a link exists between antidepressant medication and type 2 diabetes so that caution can be taken and screening for type 2 diabetes undertaken as appropriate for people taking antidepressant medications,” lead author Katharine Barnard, PhD, of the University of Southampton in the UK, told Formulary in an email.

“Long-term prospective studies are required. However, heightened alertness is advised to identify potential risks until such research is complete,” Barnard said.

In 2011 in the United Kingdom, 46.7 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants compared to 20.1 million in 1999.