Efficacy of Fluoxetine - a Trial in Stroke (EFFECTS)

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Karolinska Institute

Status and phase

Phase 3




Drug: Placebo
Drug: Fluoxetine

Study type


Funder types



2011-006130-16 (EudraCT Number)

Details and patient eligibility


The purpose of this study is to investigate whether routine administration of fluoxetine 20mg once daily in the 6 months initiated during the acute stroke improves the patient's functional outcome. EFFECTS is an investigator lead Sweden-based, multicenter, parallel group, double blind placebo controlled trial with broad entry criteria and follow up at 6 and 12 months. EFFECTS managed to recruit its anticipated numbers of 1,500 participants between 20th October 2014 and 28th June 2019. Data will be unblinded when the 6-months follow-up is completed, and the primary outcome is due to report on May 2020.

Full description

Stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that happens when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, usually due to a blood clot (ischemic) or hemorrhage. Symptoms vary according to how much of the brain is affected and where in the brain the stroke occurs but includes paralysis, muscle weakness and speech problems. A stroke can also have an impact on the sufferers emotions and can lead to anxiety, depression and personality changes. Fluoxetine (otherwise known as Prozac) has been used for many years to treat depression. However, there is evidence to suggest that it may also have other effects of the brain and enhance brain plasticity (the reorganisation of neural pathways in the brain) in a number of different ways. One small study, for example, has shown that, if taken soon after a stroke, fluoxetine might improve the recovery of arm strength and lead to greater restoration of movement of the limbs. Adult participants (at least 18 years old) who have had a stroke (either ischemic or hemorrhagic) within the last 2-15 days and still have some residual problems caused by the stroke e.g. weakness, or problems with their speech (speech impairment). Participants are randomly allocated into one of two groups. Those in group 1 are given fluoxetine capsules for 6 months. Those in group 2 are given a placebo capsules for 6 months. The participants are contacted after one week of starting their treatment, and then again after one month, to check on their well-being and that they are still taking their allocated caplets. Each participant is asked about any side effects and how much training they have had with e.g. a physiotherapist, occupational- or speech-therapist. The research team contacts each participant at 3 months to check whether they are still taking the capsules, ask about bad side effects, and about how they are feeling (mood). If all is well, the participant is given enough medication to cover the rest of the study period. The participant is asked to stop the study medication after 6 months and repeat assessments that they did before they started the study at the local hospital. They are also asked to fill in questionnaires together with their next of kin or carer. These questionnaires are sent to the trial main centre. If needed, they can also be filled in with the help of a trial nurse over the telephone. The participants are contacted again one month after they have stopped the medication to see how they have progressed. At 12 months after recruitment, participants are asked to complete the same questionnaires again about how well they have recovered from their stroke and what problems they now have after the stroke e.g. weakness in limbs, memory problems, problems with speech, low mood. These questionnaires can again be completed on paper or by telephone. The researchers then collect data on long-term recovery through national statistics.


1,500 patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Informed consent can only be obtained from a patient who according to the trial investigator is mentally capable of decision-making and who, after having received information and got answers to their questions, wants to participate in the trial.
  • Brain imaging is compatible with intra cerebral hemorrhage or ischemic stroke.
  • Randomization can be performed between 2 and 15 days after stroke onset and by the research group at the patient's local/emergency hospital.
  • Persisting focal neurological deficit is present at the time of randomization severe enough to warrant treatment from the physicians and the patient's and relative's perspective.

Exclusion criteria

  • Subarachnoidal hemorrhage except where secondary to a primary intracerebral hemorrhage.
  • Unlikely to be available for follow up for the next 12 months e.g. no fixed home address.
  • Unable to speak Swedish and no close family member available to help with follow up forms.
  • Other life threatening illness (e.g. advanced cancer) that will make 12-month survival unlikely.
  • History of epileptic seizures.
  • History of allergy or contraindications to fluoxetine including: Hepatic impairment (S-ASAT/ALAT > 3 upper normal limit) and renal impairment (S-Creatinine levels > 180 micromol/L).
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding, women of childbearing age not taking contraception. Minimum contraception is an oral contraceptive. An HCG-test is to be made prior randomization and after the end of trial medication.
  • Previous drug overdose or attempted suicide.
  • Already enrolled into a CTIMP.
  • Current or recent (within the last month) depression requiring treatment with an SSRI antidepressant.

Current use of medications which have serious interactions with fluoxetine Use of any mono-amino-oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) during the last 5 weeks. Co-administration of Fluoxetine and a mono-amino-oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) may result in life threatening interactions. Therefore, patients on MAOI are ineligible for the EFFECTS trial. Also, any patient in need of treatment with a MAOI must stop their trial treatment for at least 5 weeks before commencing the MAOI, or to be treated as in-patients by a psychiatrist.

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Quadruple Blind

1,500 participants in 2 patient groups, including a placebo group

Active Comparator group
One capsule Fluoxetine 20mg once daily for 6 months.
Drug: Fluoxetine
Placebo Comparator group
One matching capsule placebo once daily for 6 months.
Drug: Placebo

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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