New findings have surfaced showing that, in non-depressed patients who have recently suffered a stroke, treatment with Zoloft (also known as sertraline) does not prevent the onset of depression in the six months following the stroke.

Post-stroke depression is common and affects around 1 in 3 survivors, according to Dr. Osvaldo P. Almeida and colleagues from Perth’s University of Western Australia.

The researchers conducting the study examined whether Zoloft started within 2 weeks of a stroke and continued for 24 weeks reduced the incidence of depression in 111 non-depressed stroke patients with a mean age of 67.5 years. Fifty-five of the patients took Zoloft and 56 took a placebo.

Of the participants, seven suffered hemorrhagic stroke caused by bleeding in the brain and 104 suffered ischemic stroke caused by a blockage.

The researchers reported, “By the end of the 24-week trial, the proportion of participants who were depressed was 21.6% among patients assigned placebo and 16.7% among those assigned sertraline.”

In all, 51.8% (29) of patients in the placebo group and 47.3%, or 26, in the Zoloft group discontinued trial medication by week 24. This was mainly due to perceived side effects or because antidepressant medication was introduced.

The researchers concluded that new pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic strategies need to be developed in order “to reduce the health and financial burden associated with depression after stroke.”

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