Rationale: Paroxetine may decrease mental stress-induced cardiovascular responses and so benefit individuals with heart disease, even those with no psychiatric illness.
Objectives: The effects of paroxetine on cardiovascular measures during a speech task were evaluated in psychiatrically healthy subjects with a history of coronary artery disease (CAD).
Methods: Eight subjects completed this double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study in which each subject took 1 month of paroxetine and 4 weeks of placebo in random order. While on each study, medication, blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma norepinephrine concentrations were measured during a period of relaxation and during a mental stressor. The mental stressor consisted of thinking about a stressful topic, speaking about the topic, and listening to a tape-recorded replay of the speech.
Results: While on paroxetine, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure were 10-15% lower (p < 0.005) during the stressor, relative to measures obtained while on placebo. Pulse and plasma norepinephrine concentrations during stress trended lower during paroxetine treatment but did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusion: Paroxetine has antihypertensive properties during periods of psychological stress in psychiatrically healthy subjects with a history of CAD, and so should be evaluated for potential cardio-protective qualities.