Some Antidepressants Interfere with Breast Cancer Recovery


Some Antidepressants Interfere with Breast Cancer Recovery

The chance of a recurrence of breast cancer, the most common major cancer in American women, can be cut in half with the use of cancer prevention drugs such as tamoxifen (trade names Nolvadex, Istubal, Valodex). But a recent study found that the use of certain antidepressants, such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, can interfere with the benefit tamoxifen provides.

Doctors had known that certain antidepressants and other medications could lower the active compounds of temoxifen in the blood stream. But how this affected the risk for cancer recurrence remained unknown.

The need for additional research in this area was underscored by the fact that of the approximately half million women in the United States who take tamoxifen, many also take antidepressants for hot flashes because hormone therapy is not considered safe after breast cancer.

A second study in the Netherlands found little risk from combining popular antidepressants and tamoxifen. But in contrast with the first study, which used the medical records of 353 women who took tamoxifen in combination with other drugs that might interfere with it for about a year on average, the Netherlands study compared only 150 women who took the drug combinations for over two months with women who took the drug combinations for a shorter time. The first study used a control group of 945 women who used tamoxifen alone.

No increased risk for cancer was seen in either study for women taking the antidepressants Lexapro, Luvox, or Celexa with tamoxifen. The bottom line is that while not all antidepressants pose this serious problem, women who are taking tamoxifen and other cancer prevention drugs should consult with their doctors prior to taking other medications.

As far back as 2006, an advisory panel unanimously recommended that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally request that AstraZeneca, the maker of tamoxifen, change the drugs label to warn about concurrent use with antidepressants and a gene variation some women have that can make tamoxifen less effective. As of June 2009, the FDA is still considering whether to warn doctors of these dangers.

If you or a loved ones breast cancer has recurred after taking tamoxifen in combination with an antidepressant, you may wish to consult with a qualified pharmaceutical injury attorney to be apprised of your legal rights and options.