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Exposure to duloxetine during pregnancy and risk of congenital malformations and stillbirth: A nationwide cohort study in Denmark and Sweden

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BACKGROUND: The prevalence of depression and the exposure to antidepressants are high among women of reproductive age and during pregnancy. Duloxetine is a selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) approved in the United States and Europe in 2004 for the treatment of depression. Fetal safety of duloxetine is not well established. The present study evaluates the association of exposure to duloxetine during pregnancy and the risk of major and minor congenital malformations and the risk of stillbirths.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: A population-based observational study was conducted based on data from registers in Sweden and Denmark. All registered births and stillbirths in the medical birth registers between 2004 and 2016 were included. Malformation diagnoses were identified up to 1 year after birth. Logistic regression analyses were used. Potential confounding was addressed through multiple regression, propensity score (PS) matching, and sensitivity analyses. Confounder variables included sociodemographic information (income, education, age, year of birth, and country), comorbidity and comedication, previous psychiatric contacts, and birth-related information (smoking during pregnancy and previous spontaneous abortions and stillbirths). Duloxetine-exposed women were compared with 4 comparators: (1) duloxetine-nonexposed women; (2) selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-exposed women; (3) venlafaxine-exposed women; and (4) women exposed to duloxetine prior to, but not during, pregnancy. Exposure was defined as redemption of a prescription during the first trimester and throughout pregnancy for the analyses of malformations and stillbirths, respectively. Outcomes were major and minor malformations and stillbirths gathered from the national patient registers. The cohorts consisted of more than 2 million births with 1,512 duloxetine-exposed pregnancies. No increased risk for major malformations, minor malformations, or stillbirth was found across comparison groups in adjusted and PS-matched analyses. Duloxetine-exposed versus duloxetine-nonexposed PS-matched analyses showed odds ratio (OR) 0.98 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.74 to 1.30, p = 0.909) for major malformations, OR 1.09 (95% CI 0.82 to 1.45, p = 0.570) for minor malformation, and 1.18 (95% CI 0.43 to 3.19, p = 0.749) for stillbirths. For the individual malformation subtypes, some findings were statistically significant but were associated with large statistical uncertainty due to the extremely small number of events. The main limitations for the study were that the indication for duloxetine and a direct measurement of depression severity were not available to include as covariates.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on this observational register-based nationwide study with data from Sweden and Denmark, no increased risk of major or minor congenital malformations or stillbirth was associated with exposure to duloxetine during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003851
JournalPLOS Medicine
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)e1003851
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2021

ID: 69352851