The improvement meant that more patients in the generic Prozac group were able to live independently than patients in the placebo group, the researchers noted.
The drug -- from the same class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that includes Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft -- was well-tolerated and side effects were mild. However, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain were more common among patients taking the antidepressant, and two of those patients suffered serious adverse events.
The generic form of Prozac is also relatively cheap now, at about 30 cents per pill.
And there was an added bonus: patients taking generic Prozac were less likely to be depressed, which suggests that giving the antidepressant after a stroke could prevent depression, the researchers say.
But Chollet noted that remaining questions persist. "How long should be the treatment period? What is the long-term effect? Can other neurological functions, such as language and vision, be improved in a similar way? Can we observe a similar action in [the rarer form of] hemorrhagic strokes? These question will have to be addressed in a short while," he said.
He and the other researchers reported no conflicts of interest.
Dr. Robert G. Robinson, professor and head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and coauthor of an accompanying journal editorial, said that "the implications of the study are very positive."
Robinson noted that a study that he participated in found similar results. He believes that antidepressants may aid in producing new nerve cells in the brain and also help in creating new connections between these cells. In addition, antidepressants may also help in preventing the inflammation seen in stroke, he said.
"This study raises the question, should all patients who have a stroke be given antidepressant medication?" Robinson said. "Given the large number of people who have stroke each year, you are
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