Popular depression drug may also protect against heart disease, blood clots

KINGSVILLE, Texas — A common prescription drug used to treat depression could also protect against heart disease, according to a new study.

Duloxetine, commonly known as Cymbalta or Irenka, is an antidepressant also prescribed for anxiety, and can be used to treat nerve pain, such as fibromyalgia. But new research shows that duloxetine also protects against clot formation in human blood. It could also be beneficial to patients with both depression and cardiovascular disease.

More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, which comes with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

When a blood vessel is injured, the platelets in our blood respond by forming clots that stop blood bleeding. But if this activation goes into overdrive, it can lead to thrombosis: a condition where blood clots form inside blood vessels and can dislodge, leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Scientists at Texas A&M University Rangel College of Pharmacy show that duloxetine inhibited platelet function and protected against clot formation.

“Understanding the antiplatelet effects of duloxetine is critical due to the prevalence of patients with depression and cardiovascular disease,” explains Patricia Lozano, a research assistant at the college, in a statement. “Having one drug that can treat both conditions could help avoid drug interactions. Duloxetine may also serve as a blueprint for developing a novel class of antithrombotic agents.”

Mouse model shows promising results for Duloxetine

For the study, researchers performed a series of experiments to examine duloxetine’s effects on platelets in human blood. They found that the antidepressant inhibited platelet aggregation in a dose-dependent manner, implying that the drug could prevent clot formation.

Using a mouse model of thrombosis, the research team also says that duloxetine slowed down the time it took for platelets to aggregate into a clot large enough to block an artery.

“Our study shows, for the first time, that duloxetine, which has already been approved by the FDA for depression, has antithrombotic activity,” adds. Lozano. “Repurposing an existing drug already approved by the FDA, helps avoid the lengthy and costly process of drug discovery and development.”

The research team hopes to work with an expert in drug design to develop new medications based on the structure of duloxetine and test their ability to protect from thrombosis.

Lozano is due to present the findings at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting during the virtual Experimental Biology meeting.

SWNS writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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