Epilepsy Drugs Linked to Suicide Risk by New Study

An emerging study has found a link between an increased risk for suicide and “violent death” in patients taking some anti-seizure medications , said CNN Health. <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/epilepsy_drugs">Anti-seizure drugs can be prescribed for epilepsy, depression, chronic pain, migraine, and bipolar disorder, said CNN Health.

The drugs—gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), tiagabine (Gabitril), and valproate (Depakote)—should not be taken without physician guidance, according to experts, wrote CNN Health. It also remains unclear if the increased risks are linked to the medications or the existing mood issues, added CNN health. The study appears in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study was conducted by a research team led by Elisabetta Patorno, MD, a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, and analyzed prescription data for 13 anticonvulsants from health plans nationwide, comparing the drugs to federal death and emergency room and hospitalization records and data, said CNN Health. Over two million prescriptions were filled during the five-year study period; the team looked at 297,620 new prescriptions and found that, in people taking the medications there were: 801 suicide attempts, 26 suicides, and 41 violent deaths, wrote CNN Health. The team did not look at suicidal ideation, or thoughts, although many of the trials considered by the FDA had reviewed this, added CNN Health.

In 2008, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review also found that taking medications in the anticonvulsant class of drugs approximately doubled the risk for suicidal ideation and attempts, explained CNN Health. That review looked at 11 anticonvulsants and found the risk to be at about 1 in 230, versus 1 in 450 in those people taking a placebo medication, CNN Health pointed out. In response, the agency required the implementation of a stronger warning on anticonvulsant medications indicating information regarding the increased risks.

The FDA report looked at the entire class of drugs, while Dr. Patorno and her team looked at the suicidal behavior risk linked with specific drugs, comparing drugs in to topiramate (Topamax) due to its broader use and that it is prescribed for a number of conditions, noted CNN Health. The group found risks in those taking tiagabine was 2.5 times greater than in those taking topiramate; the risk doubled in the oxcarbazepine group, said CNN Health, which noted that completed or attempted suicide risks increased in people taking lamotrigine, valproate, or gabapentin, with five of the 12 drugs compared with topiramate revealed increased risks for suicidal behaviors.

Because doctors are increasing their prescription practices for anticonvulsants, the use of these medications is rising in all demographics, including in children, teens, and young adults, according to CNN Health. It is important to note that drugs can be prescribed off-label—for uses not approved by the FDA—at the prescribing physician’s discretions.

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