Drugs for Epilepsy, Depression Linked to Suicide

More attention is being paid to drugs prescribed to treat epilepsy, depression, chronic pain, migraine, bipolar disorder, and other conditions, as studies are linking them to greatly increased risk of suicide.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analyzed data from almost 300,000 people aged 15 or older who had taken an anticonvulsant. They used hospital records to log any reports of suicide or attempts, and violent death during their first 60 days of use. They found that in patients who had taken these drugs, the risk of suicide or violent death was nearly double than those taking a placebo. This risk usually starts after 14 days of treatment. The absolute risk still remains very small, according to the researchers-less than half of one percent.

Experts are not in agreement over what these studies have found, and generally advise that no patient should stop taking a medication without discussing it with their prescribing physician.

Although the FDA requires anticonvulsant drug products to carry information about suicide risk on their labels, perhaps a stronger warning is necessary, such as a black box warning. Many physicians are prescribing anticonvulsants for “off-label” use, to treat psychiatric disorders or pain conditions. The risks associated with these drugs should be taken seriously, and prescriptions should be written with extreme caution