Psychotropic Drugs and Increased Risk of Death from Acute Coronary Events

May 14, 2009

Media Contact

Ken Demith
Heart Rhythm Society

BOSTON, May 14, 2009 — Common psychotropic medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines, may contribute to an increased risk of sudden death during an acute coronary event, according to a new study released today at Heart Rhythm 2009, the Heart Rhythm Society’s 30th Annual Scientific Sessions. This case-control study is the first of its kind to compare psychotropic medication use in heart attack survivors and victims of sudden cardiac death.

Led by Jussi Honkola, MD, at the University of Oulu, Finland, this prospective sub-study of Finnish Genetic Study of Arrhythmic Events (FinGesture) compared the medications of 321 sudden cardiac death victims due to an acute coronary event as confirmed by a medicolegal autopsy, with 609 patients surviving acute myocardial infarction (AMI), also known as a heart attack. Medication histories were examined from autopsy records and interviews with the victims’ relatives.

Findings reveal that victims of sudden cardiac death more frequently used medications compared to heart attack survivors respectively including:

  • Antipsychotics (10.9 percent vs. 1.4 percent)
  • Antidepressants (7.4 percent vs. 3.0 percent)
  • Benzodiazepines (18.4 percent vs. 5.0 percent)

The study also found more frequent use of beta blockers and aspirin among AMI survivors when compared to those that experienced sudden cardiac death.

“Our study shows that medications may negatively impact a person’s chance of surviving an acute coronary event such as a heart attack,” said Dr. Honkola. “With more people taking medications such as painkillers and antidepressants, the public needs to understand the potential risks and serious consequences.”

About the Heart Rhythm Society

The Heart Rhythm Society is the international leader in science, education, and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmia professionals and patients, and the primary information resource on heart rhythm disorders. Its mission is to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education, and optimal health care policies and standards. Incorporated in 1979 and based in Washington, DC, it has a membership of more than 6,000 heart rhythm professionals in more than 72 countries around the world. For more information, visit