David Duprey/AP
Margaret Bastian (seen here) has had problems with the quit-smoking drug Chantix, which
has been linked to numerous cases of suicide.

More Drugs’ Side Effects Include Suicide

July 11, 2008 03:26 PM
by Liz Colville
Several drugs that have been shown to increase the risk of suicide are still producing strong sales; many of them do not include the FDA’s strongest “black box” warning labels.

30-Second Summary

Advisors to the FDA recently voted to keep the organization’s strongest “black box” warning label off of the packaging for epilepsy drugs known to increase the risk of suicide, reports MSNBC. The panelists agreed in a vote of 14-4 that the drugs’ risks are not strong enough to warrant the label.

The vote is likely to support the strong U.S. sales of the drugs, which totaled $10 million in 2007, according to the research firm IMS Health. That same firm concluded in a report released earlier this year that “patients taking 11 widely used antiseizure drugs were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors than those taking dummy pills.”

The law firm Finkelstein & Partners reported 261 cases of suicide of patients on Pfizer’s Neurontin in 2003, which caused the FDA to probe further into research of antiseizure drugs from 14 companies.

Suicide risks have also been reported in children and adolescents taking antidepressants and smokers using the quit-smoking aid Chantix, also made by Pfizer. Antidepressants now include this “black box” warning but Chantix, whose warnings were bolstered in April of this year, still does not include this most stringent form of label.

Dr. Jakob Christensen, head researcher of a Danish study on epilepsy drugs and suicide rates, told to the BBC in 2007, “We know that epilepsy lowers the overall quality of life of the affected individuals,” which could support the increased risk of suicide that Christensen and his team found.

Headline Link: ‘FDA Panel: No Black Box Warning on Epilepsy Drugs’

Background: Suicide risks among popular prescription drugs

Opinions & Analysis: Postmarketing drug data

Reference: Epilepsy


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