Safety and efficacy of fluoxetine on functional recovery after acute stroke (EFFECTS): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Lancet Neurol. 2020 Aug;19(8):661-669. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(20)30219-2.


Background: Studies have suggested that fluoxetine could improve neurological recovery after stroke. The Efficacy oF Fluoxetine-a randomisEd Controlled Trial in Stroke (EFFECTS) trial aimed to assess whether administration of oral fluoxetine for 6 months after acute stroke improves functional outcome.

Methods: EFFECTS was an investigator-led, multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel group trial that enrolled patients aged 18 years or older between 2 and 15 days after stroke onset in 35 stroke and rehabilitation centres in Sweden. Eligible patients had a clinical diagnosis of ischaemic or intracerebral haemorrhage, brain imaging that was consistent with intracerebral haemorrhage or ischaemic stroke, and had at least one persisting focal neurological deficit. A web-based randomisation system that incorporated a minimisation algorithm was used to randomly assign (1:1) participants to receive oral fluoxetine 20 mg once daily or matching placebo capsules for 6 months. Patients, care providers, investigators, and outcomes assessors were masked to the allocation. The primary outcome was functional status, measured with the modified Rankin Scale (mRS) at 6 months, analysed in all patients with available mRS data at the 6-month follow-up; we did an ordinal analysis adjusted for the minimisation variables used in the randomisation. This trial is registered with EudraCT, 2011-006130-16; ISRCTN, 13020412; and, NCT02683213.

Findings: Between Oct 20, 2014, and June 28, 2019, 1500 patients were enrolled, of whom 750 were randomly assigned to fluoxetine and 750 were randomly assigned to placebo. At 6 months, mRS data were available for 737 (98%) patients in the fluoxetine group and 742 (99%) patients in the placebo group. There was no effect of fluoxetine on the primary outcome-distribution across mRS score categories-compared with placebo (adjusted common odds ratio 0·94 [95% CI 0·78 to 1·13]; p=0·42). The proportion of patients with a new diagnosis of depression was lower with fluoxetine than with placebo (54 [7%] patients vs 81 [11%] patients; difference -3·60% [-6·49 to -0·71]; p=0·015), but fluoxetine was associated with more bone fractures (28 [4%] vs 11 [2%]; difference 2·27% [0·66 to 3·87]; p=0·0058) and hyponatraemia (11 [1%] vs one [<1%]; difference 1·33% [0·43 to 2·23]; p=0·0038) at 6 months.

Interpretation: Functional outcome after acute stroke did not improve with oral fluoxetine 20 mg once daily for 6 months. Fluoxetine reduced the occurrence of depression but increased the risk of bone fractures and hyponatraemia. Our results do not support the use of fluoxetine after acute stroke.

Funding: The Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, the Swedish Brain Foundation, the Swedish Society of Medicine, King Gustav V and Queen Victoria's Foundation of Freemasons, and the Swedish Stroke Association (STROKE-Riksförbundet).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / therapeutic use*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Fluoxetine

Associated data