Objective To assess whether use of the antidepressant venlafaxine is associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death or near death compared with other commonly used antidepressants.
Design Population based observational study.
Setting We did a nested case-control analysis within a new user cohort formed using the United Kingdom General Practice Research Database.
Participants New users of venlafaxine, fluoxetine, citalopram, or dosulepin on or after 1 January 1995, aged 18 to 89 years, with a diagnosis of depression or anxiety. Participants were followed-up until February 2005, or the occurrence of sudden cardiac death or near death, identified from medical records indicating non-fatal acute ventricular tachyarrhythmia, sudden death due to cardiac causes, or out of hospital deaths from acute ischaemic cardiac events. For each case, 30 controls were selected matched for age, sex, calendar time, and indication. We used conditional logistic regression to calculate the adjusted odds ratio of sudden cardiac death or near death associated with current use of venlafaxine compared with current use of fluoxetine, citalopram or dosulepin.
Results 207 384 participants were followed-up for an average of 3.3 years. There were 568 cases of sudden cardiac death or near death, which were matched to 14 812 controls. The adjusted odds ratio of sudden cardiac death or near death associated with venlafaxine use was 0.66 (95% confidence interval 0.38 to 1.14) relative to fluoxetine use, whereas compared with citalopram it was 0.89 (0.50 to 1.60) and with dosulepin 0.83 (0.46 to 1.52).
Conclusions In this large, population based study, the use of venlafaxine was not associated with an excess risk of sudden cardiac death or near death compared with fluoxetine, dosulepin, or citalopram, in patients with depression or anxiety.