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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.