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Prozac May Speed Physical Rehabilitation After Stroke
Date:1/10/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke patients given the antidepressant fluoxetine (best known by the brand name of Prozac) appear to regain more muscle function than other recovering stroke sufferers, French researchers have found.

Not surprisingly, patients on the generic Prozac were also less susceptible to depression after their stroke, the study found.

Paralysis and/or weakness on one side of the body are the most common disabilities after stroke. Earlier trials have suggested that antidepressants might help improve motor recovery after stroke, probably by increasing the level of serotonin in the central nervous system, the researchers explained.

Lead researcher Dr. Francois Chollet said the study "opens a new pathway" in the treatment of the leading form of stroke, in which a blockage in a blood vessel is the cause of the attack. Chollet, from the University Hospital of Toulouse and INSERM, noted that Prozac also appears to target neurons themselves rather than trying to re-open arteries, as many other stroke medications do.

The report is published in the Jan. 9 online edition of The Lancet Neurology.

Stroke is a major cause of death and long-term disability for Americans, so any agent that helps boost functionality is of great benefit. In the new study, Chollet's team randomly assigned 118 ischemic (blockage) stroke patients left with paralysis or weakness on one side of the body to either 20 milligrams of generic Prozac or placebo per day starting 5 to 10 days after their stroke.

After three months of follow-up, patients taking generic Prozac had improved their score on a measure of motor function by 34 points over their initial test, compared with a 24.3-point improvement among those receiving placebo, the researchers found.

Moreover, this statistically significant improvement was seen in both arm and leg function, Chollet's grou
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