FDA antidepressant warnings may have led to more teen suicide attempts: Study

June 23, 2014

Teen suicide attempts went up about 22% after FDA warned about dangers of antidepressants, according to a study published in the June 18 BMJ.

Teen suicide attempts went up about 22% after FDA warned about dangers of antidepressants, according to a study published in the June 18 BMJ, and reported by HealthDay News.

Lead author Christine Lu, an instructor in population medicine at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston, and colleagues wanted to determine if the widely publicized warnings in 2003 from FDA about a possible increased risk of suicidality with antidepressant use in young people were associated with changes in antidepressant use, suicide attempts, and completed suicides among young people.

“This was the first study with suicide attempt data-a more reliable measure and a strong quasi-experimental study design that controls for trends,” according to Lu.

For this study, Lu and colleagues used the Mental Health Research Network to collect medical claims data from 11 US health plans from 2000 to 2010, totaling 7.5 million individuals. This database included records for 1.1 million teens, 1.4 million young adults and 5 million adults.

“After the warnings and media reports, antidepressant use in young people declined 24% to 31%. Suicide behavior-suicide attempts and suicide-did not go down among young people after the warnings, as hoped,” according to Lu.

“Consider coverage of both drug and non-drug treatment options,” said Lu. “Drug risk communication to providers and members should include new evidence of the drug’s risk with consideration of its benefits to present an holistic, balanced picture. Widely publicized warnings could have intended and unintended consequences.”

There is a need for greater coordination of federal drug risk communications by FDA with the media to avoid exaggerated messages to the public, according to Lu.

“Emerging evidence about any drug’s risk should be appreciated but should be considered together with its benefits, and the risk of under-treating the underlying condition,” she said. “For disease management, holistic consideration of drug and non-drug treatment options must be emphasized.

“FDA warnings generally don’t have huge influence on prescriber or patient behavior,” Lu continued. “However, because media coverage of this warning was intense and widespread, it is a reasonable research question about the intended and unintended consequences.”