Paxil May Increase Suicide Risk for Patients with Major Depression: Study

The antidepressant Paxil may increase the risk of suicide among individuals who are already suffering from major depressive disorders, according to new research. 

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, which was funded by the drug’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, found that some individuals taking Paxil were more likely to consider suicide than individuals who were given a placebo.

Researchers conducted double-blind, randomized clinical trials that gathered data from 14,911 patients. They found that patients suffering major depression were about seven times more likely to show suicidal behavior while on Paxil than those given a placebo. About 0.34 percent of depressed patients on Paxil considered or attempted suicide, compared to only 0.05 percent of depressed patients given a placebo. However, there was no statistical difference in the risk of Paxil suicide among the general population and the researchers said that even the Paxil findings could be an anomaly in the data.

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Paxil (paroxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor prescribed to treat depression. Approved in 1992, it has become one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, with sales of just under $1 billion in 2008.  In 2009, GlaxoSmithKline reportedly paid about $1 billion to settle hundreds of Paxil lawsuits, including nearly $400 million to settle Paxil suicide claims.

Side effects of Paxil have been linked to an increased risk of suicidal tendencies in some users, including a risk of death or severe injuries from attempted suicides. A large portion of the payments made so far have gone toward Paxil settlements for claims that Glaxo failed to adequately warn users and the medical community about the risk of suicide on Paxil. About 150 suicide death cases were settled for an average of $2 million each and another 300 attempted suicide cases resolved for about $300,000 each.

The use of Paxil during pregnancy has also been linked to an increased risk of birth defects for children, including persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN) and other heart problems. In July 2010, it was reported that Glaxo set aside an additional $1.14 billion to settle about 800 Paxil birth defect lawsuits, but details of the agreement were not released.


  • kirstiMay 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    my 7 month old son was born on sept 18th 2010 with a cleft lip...i was taking paxil while i was pregnant with him

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