Epilepsy Drug Suicide Risk Questioned by New Study

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European researchers released the findings of a new study that suggests antiepileptic drugs may not increase suicide risk among epileptics. However, the drugs do appear to increase the risk in some groups of non-epileptics. 

The study was published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers say that the data leads them to believe that antiepileptics increase the risk of suicide when given to people suffering depression, and when given to people who are not suffering from either epilepsy, bipolar disorder or depression; the three most frequent reasons doctors prescribe the antiseizure drugs.

While approved for treatment of epilepsy, many doctors prescribe antiepileptics “off-label” for the treatment of mood disorders.

In 2008, the FDA conducted a  meta-analysis that led to a 2008 decision requiring all epilepsy drugs to carry a suicide risk warning. The meta-analysis did not identify which epilepsy drugs were most associated with suicide risk, and some experts were critical of the FDA for what they said was casting to wide a net with the all-encompassing warning.

Researchers looked at data from about 5.1 million patients in the United Kingdom and found 8,212 suicide cases and 464 attempted suicide cases. They looked at whether the subjects had used popular antiepileptics including Pfizer’s Neurontin, GlaxoSmithKline’s Lamictal, Johnson & Johnson’s Topamax, and other antiepileptics.

While they found no increase in suicide when the drugs were used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder, they did find that giving the drugs to patients with depression appeared to increase the risk of suicide by 65%, and giving it to people who did not suffer from epilepsy, depression or bipolar disorder were one and a half times more likely to try to harm themselves.

The study’s release comes about a week after a study was published in the medical journal Neurology, where researchers found that a suicide risk exists with newer antiepileptic drugs, while older drugs, like Depakote, Neurontin and Lamictal, appeared to have no increased risk of suicide.

Both studies appear to contradict those of a study published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in which U.S. researchers found an increased risk of suicide among users of Neurontin, Lamictal, Trileptal, Gabitral and Depakote.

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  1. AMBER Reply

    my mother was on at least three of these medications, and committed suicide in 2005. we felt that the drugs changed her, and made her more depressed. i feel the drugs were responsible for her death.

  2. tim Reply

    had epilepsy twenty years and i must agree.has nothin to do with the drugs.its mainly how were treated by first responders and doctors we gotta get to know.
    myself.i had a seizure in an ER last beat the hell outta me while unconcious and while a top neuro says she pleaded that she knew,im woken up,police are there,medic alerts torn off and mocked at.was unsure what happened,no rights even read so of course i resist a bit but then beaten by police and laughed at.medication denied,phonecalls denied but luckily my neuro contacts my family,family had no bail that next day so only a friend had a couple grand to get me out.within two years time,charges dropped though goals in school were pushed aside ty to defending myself in court.was even spittin teeth how do u like that!
    this story would take forever,but i garontee.if i see no rights in a civil court.then ill never goto another hospital ever again!
    is that enough to push a man over the edge?!?!only time will tell as i write you this story with missing teeth and emotions going just from remembering this and telling you.
    is it the medication that gives people them thoughts?I HIGHLY DOUBT IT!

  3. Keri Reply

    My husband was on Neurontin and he also committed suicide in 2005. That drug is definitely to blame! There are so many people that lost loved ones due to Neurontin. Clinical studies can’t bring back these precious lives.

  4. Cynthia Reply

    I suffered from depression after the paasing of my husband. I was given an anti depressant. After 2 years I was still very depressed, but trying to move on with my life. I went to see another Dr. and he put me on TOPAMAX, within a short period of time I started having suicidal thoughts, and actually made an attempt. I have been unable to maintain stable employment, a healthy realationship or any measureable periods without suicidal thoughts.
    I never really thought about whether this was an affect of the TOPAMAX. But I am almost certain that it a possibility. I will stay on the anti-depressant that was originally prescribed, but I think that I am going to stop the TOPAMAX.

  5. jan Reply

    I have severe restless leg syndrome. A neurologist did not agree with that diagnosis and diagnosed me with mania and started me on Lamictal. Within 48 hours I was massively suicidal, aggitated to the extreme, hallucinating and psychotic. I was on this medication for 2 weeks, my doctor refusing to believe his diagnosis was wrong. I stopped taking it on my own. My suicide risk was extrememly high, in the ER 3-4 times. Only survived due to my family keeping 24 hour watch. I am now almost 2 years out from taking Lamictal and on disability after working for over 30 years as a nurse. I slowly have been improving but continue to experience memory, cognitive, and energy loss. I would like to know if I have any options.

  6. Ron Reply

    I took topamax 500ER’s for 9 years, and that was 9 years of my body and mind going through hell.

  7. David Reply

    Why is their no class action law suit against topomax side effect’s including suicide, physcosis, memory loss, crash in libido, increase in anxiety etc.etc. I was put on topomax because of one seizure. After the drug, my anxiety when up 100 fold I went from no medications to 6 medications including Testosterone for libido. I tried commiting suicide twice, created a second personality that cheated on my wife,lost my job because of performance do to the drug and eventually became addicted to xanax. I ended a metnal hospital. My memory is still shot. I’m still unemployed, which ruined my credit. I suffered from minor gynocomastia because of the drop in testosterone and the steroid shots. this medication is evil!!!

  8. avaa Reply

    in 04′ I was put on Topamax for bipolar use. I started off at 25mgs and built up to 300 mgs for all these years. I would wake up crying every morning and cry myself to sleep and the super urge to kill myself that life wasn’t worth living in my condition. I have a sixth sense and started taking myself off this drug slowly, until I got to 25 mgs again. I stayed on that for 2 mos. Still I just kept wanting to end my life for I have MS along with so many other neurological diseases. I am homebound and do not know anyone in KS. I got sick here and ended up in the system SSI because SS dept dragged my case for over 10 years. I lost all my points to get my SSDI so all I get is narcotics for the pain. I call it the shut up pills. I got off the 25mgs and it has been almost 2 mos and I feel normal again. I want to live. I have grandkids and a daughter I haven’t seen in 8 years due to distance of living. I think the drug Topamax caused me to get sicker both emotionally and physically. This is 2011 I was watching on TV the recall of the drug. I was so right to know that it was going to make me kill myself by hanging. I hated myself. I isolated myself to keep from striking out at folks. Stuck in a city and State I don’t belong but can’t get out to go where I have family to help care for me. I am angry at the doctor not telling me about the warning … At least I was smart enough to know when a drug is causing me problems. THE FDA means nothing. There are so many drug & hip recalls on TV I won’t ever take another drug from them.

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