Health warnings issued against anti-depressant

Health ministry issues a warning against the use of citalopram following US warning it could cause potentially fatal heart problems.

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The Ministry of Health has imposed tighter controls on the sale of an antidepressant after a US warning that it could cause heart problems.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning in August about citalopram, which is sold in the UAE under brand names including Cipram, Lopram and Citalogen.

It warned that in some patients Celexa, a US brand of the drug, can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart that can "lead to an abnormal heart rhythm, which can be fatal".

The FDA said Celexa should no longer be used at doses greater than 40 milligrams a day.

It said patients with heart conditions and those disposed to having low levels of potassium and magnesium in their blood were particularly at risk.

The UAE has followed the FDA warning, limiting prescriptions of citalopram to 40mg a day.

Every time a patient buys citalopram, the quantity and time of purchase will be recorded.

Dr Amin Al Amiri, the assistant undersecretary of medical practice and licensing at the ministry, said the ministry had taken action after discovering that some people had been misusing the drug.