Federal Drug Regulators Investigate Whether Certain Medications Used to Treat Physical Illnesses Pose a Suicide Risk

While the Food and Drug Administration has done extensive study on psychiatric drugs to see whether they increase the risk of suicide, they are now taking a look at whether other medications, such as drugs to treat seizures, smoking, and asthma, also pose a similar risk.

Drugs that experts are worried could lead to suicidal thoughts if ingested included:

• Paxil, Zoloft, and all other antidepressants • Neurontin, Lyrica, and other anti-convulsives • Chantix, which is used to help people quit smoking • Asthma and allergy drug Singulair • Accutane, for acne
Drug companies say there is no cause-and-effect evidence to confirm that these drugs increase the chances of someone committing suicide. However, one family claims that their 15-year-old son, Cody Miller, killed himself last year after he started taking Singular to treat his allergies. Two months later, Merck & Co. revised its prescription literature to include the information that some patients have experienced suicidal actions and thoughts while taking the allergy drug. The drug manufacturer, however, is quick to point out that with over 40 controlled clinical trials showing no connection to suicide, this link may just be a coincidence.

In another incident, reported by the Boston Globe, the family of Dr. Douglas Briggs is suing Pfizer for his wrongful death. Briggs began taking Neurontin to alleviate severe back pain in February 2004. He committed suicide on Christmas Day later that year.

Pfizer has prescribing literature that includes “suicidal gesture” and “suicidal” as adverse but rare side effects that were reported from its clinical trials for Neurontin. The drug maker, however, says that it doesn’t believe the suicidal reactions are connected to taking the drug.

The FDA and drug manufacturers are supposed to make sure their medications are safe for users. They are also required to notify the public of any adverse side effects that could result from taking the drug. Failure to warn can be grounds for a products liability or wrongful death lawsuit.

Suicide risks studied in drugs for physical ills, Boston.com, August 31, 2008
List of drugs with suicide concerns, Boston.com, August 31, 2008

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