Although all epilepsy drugs carrying a similar warning about suicide, new research seems to indicate that only some of the newer epilepsy drugs carry a real risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
The epilepsy drug suicide study was published in the most recent issue of the medical journal, Neurology. Researchers say that the study shows that people taking certain newer antiepileptic medications, including Keppra, Gabitril, and Sabril, were three times as likely to try to commit suicide than people not on any antiepileptic medications, or on several older classes of antiepileptic drugs.
Researchers looked at 44,300 patients in the United Kingdom who used epilepsy drugs between 1990 and 2005. They found that newer antiepileptics that also carried risks of depression were most likely to cause suicidal or self-destructive tendencies. Valproate-based drugs, like Depakote, and new low-depression drugs, such as Neurontin and Lamictal, appeared to have no increased risk of suicide, according to the study.
The research is an attempt to fill in the gaps by an FDA 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.
An editorial published with the article warned that the researchers gleaned their results from a very small number of suicide cases. It also points out that epileptics taking the newer drugs may have more severe epilepsy, a group that is traditionally more suicide-prone.
The study’s findings 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.