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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Drugs and depression

Physicians or patients have filed anecdotal reports with drug companies or the Food and Drug Administration on at least six drugs or drug classes that may have been linked to episodes of suicidal thoughts or actions. In just the past few months, the FDA has released several advisory notices to both doctors and the public about drugs linked to suicidal thoughts or actions, including Singulair, epilepsy drugs and the smoking-cessation drug Chantix. Reports have also been filed on antidepressants, the influenza drug Tamiflu and the acne medicine Accutane.

It's a medical quandary that has doctors, drugmakers, federal health officials and patients confused and understandably concerned. Are the links between these medications and the risk of suicide real? And if so, how can drugs that are intended to help people instead potentially prompt them to end their lives?



Experts say there aren't many clear answers but medication links to suicide, if in fact real, could possibly result from the drug itself, an underlying disease or condition that predisposes someone to depression, or a combination of factors.

"The brain is a complex organ, and most of the drugs are complex as well,’’ says Dr. Thomas Laughren, head of the division of psychiatric products at the FDA. "It’s not unreasonable to think that a drug that gets into the brain may have effects other than you hope they would have … but in some cases, it’s just a background event. That's why it's so important to follow up with an analysis of the clinical trials.’’

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