Association between antidepressants with pneumonia and exacerbation in patients with COPD: a self-controlled case series (SCCS)

Thorax. 2023 Dec 15;79(1):50-57. doi: 10.1136/thorax-2022-219736.


Objective: To assess whether antidepressant prescriptions are associated with an increased risk of pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation.

Methods: A self-controlled case series was performed to investigate the rates of pneumonia and COPD exacerbation during periods of being exposed to antidepressants compared with non-exposed periods. Patients with COPD with pneumonia or COPD exacerbation and at least one prescription of antidepressant were ascertained from The Health Improvement Network in the UK. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) and 95% CI were calculated for both outcomes.

Results: Of 31 253 patients with COPD with at least one antidepressant prescription, 1969 patients had pneumonia and 18 483 had a COPD exacerbation. The 90-day risk period following antidepressant prescription was associated with a 79% increased risk of pneumonia (age-adjusted IRR 1.79, 95% CI 1.54 to 2.07). These associations then disappeared once antidepressants were discontinued. There was a 16% (age-adjusted IRR 1.16, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.20) increased risk of COPD exacerbation within the 90 days following antidepressant prescription. This risk persisted and slightly increased in the remainder period ((age-adjusted IRR 1.38, 95% CI 1.34 to 1.41), but diminished after patients discounted the treatment.

Conclusion: Antidepressants were associated with an increased risk of both pneumonia and exacerbation in patients with COPD, with the risks diminished on stopping the treatment. These findings suggest a close monitoring of antidepressant prescription side effects and consideration of non-pharmacological interventions.

Keywords: COPD Exacerbations; COPD epidemiology.

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pneumonia* / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia* / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / epidemiology


  • Antidepressive Agents