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Stroke trial finds drug does not aid recovery

Stroke patients prescribed a common antidepressant show no improvement compared with those given a dummy drug, a study has found.

Earlier research from France had suggested that taking the drug, called fluoxetine, might reduce disability after stroke. 

The latest study found no difference between the improvement in physical ability of stroke patients who took fluoxetine for six months and those who took a placebo – an inactive substitute.

Antidepressant

Fluoxetine is a common type of antidepressant that includes the branded drugs Prozac and Prozep.

Experts stress that people already taking the drug should not stop without speaking to their doctor first.

Clinical trial

The University of Edinburgh-led study involved more than 3000 stroke patients at over 100 hospitals around the UK.

Half of the participants started taking fluoxetine daily within the first two weeks of their stroke, while the remainder took a placebo.

No benefit

Those who took fluoxetine were less likely to develop depression, but, there was a small increase in bone fractures reported in this group.

Researchers say their findings do not support the use of fluoxetine to promote recovery after stroke in the UK.

FOCUS has shown that there is no benefit in the routine prescription of fluoxetine to improve recovery after a stroke, contrary to the promising results of smaller trials.

Professor Gillian MeadCo-chief investigator, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Major study

The study, called FOCUS, is published in The Lancet and was funded by the Stroke Association and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The findings are being announced at the UK Stroke Forum annual conference in Telford, UK.

Professor Martin Dennis, who co-led the study with Professor Gillian Mead, said similar trials are running in Australia and Sweden. The result of those studies will help to determine whether fluoxetine might offer benefits for patients in other health systems around the world.

For the 1.2 million people currently living with the disabling and often devastating consequences of stroke, research to improve lives and reduce disability after stroke is of incredible value and importance. We look forward to hearing the outcomes of further trials in this area and hope that we will see some positive benefits for stroke survivors soon.

Kate HolmesAssistant Director of Research, Stroke Association

Related links

Journal article

Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Edinburgh Medical School