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Prozac improves recovery in stroke patients--study

Patients taking Prozac became more independent and were less depressed than those in the placebo group.

Prozac, an antidepressant drug by Eli Lily, minimizes the devastating effects of stroke by restoring the muscle function and mobility of the patients, claims a new study.

Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, belongs to the class of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) and is the leader in treating neurological disorders.

Researchers found a vast improvement in the motor skills and cognitive functions of stroke victims after three months of using the drug compared to a placebo.

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at The Stroke Association, said, “We are continually searching for new treatments which can improve the outcomes for stroke survivors and the results of this research look promising.

“Anti-depressants, such as fluoxetine, can be used to treat stroke patients with depression which is a common side-effect of stroke, so it’s very interesting to see that this already licensed drug could have a dual benefit.

“However, further research needs to be undertaken before the use of this anti-depressant can be accepted as an effective treatment for improving movement following a stroke.”

Patients, who were given Prozac exhibited a marked improvement in their motor skills. Their average test score was about 34.0 points on a 100-point stroke symptom scale whereas those given the placebo scored only 24.3 points.

Details of the study
In order to investigate whether Prozac speeds up the recovery of patients disabled with stroke, the researchers conducted a trial.

They enrolled a group of 118 patients between March 2005 and June 2009 from nine stroke units across France. The patients exhibited moderate to severe paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.

The study subjects were assigned to either 20 milligrams of generic Prozac or a placebo daily for three months within five to 10 days after they suffered a stroke.

As a part of the study, the participants were also given physiotherapy. In addition, their motor skills were assessed at the onset of the study and then on day 90.

Findings of the study
Patients, who were given Prozac exhibited a marked improvement in their motor skills. Their average test score was about 34.0 points on a 100-point stroke symptom scale whereas those given the placebo scored only 24.3 points.

It was also noted that patients taking Prozac became more independent and were less depressed than those in the placebo group.

Although some instances of nausea and diarrhea were noticed from the antidepressant, the adverse effects were rare and mild and showed no significant damage on the patients.

Lead author of the study, Professor François Chollet from the University Hospital of Toulouse stated, "The positive effect of the drug on motor function of recovering patients suggests that the neuronal, non-vascular-targeted action of SSRIs provides a new pathway that should be explored further in the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke."

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