Paxil Link Alleged in Canadian Teen’s Suicide

<"">Paxil is being blamed on the death of a teenager who took the popular and powerful medication for anxiety, said The Globe and Mail. Sara Carlin, a University of Western Ontario student, allegedly fell into a deep depression before hanging herself with an electrical cable, wrote The Globe and Mail.

Paxil (generic: Paroxetine) is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and is in a drug class called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which seem to relieve symptoms of depression by blocking the serotonin reabsorption by certain nerve cells in the brain, leaving more serotonin available in the brain. Increased serotonin enhances neurotransmission—the sending of nerve impulses—and improves mood. SSRIs are called selective because they seem to affect only serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.

A lawyer for Ms. Carlin’s family said she was taking Paxil for over one year and described Sara as a happy and sports-minded young woman who was hoping to be a doctor; she started experiencing problems with depression as soon as she began taking Paxil, wrote The Globe and Mail. The attorney said Sara spoke to friends about her suicidal thoughts, wrote a note describing her fatigue with living, and was hospitalized after alcohol and drug use, reported The Globe and Mail. The attorney provided a Health Canada report in which 26 teens 12-19 years of age committed suicide when on an SSRI from 1993 to 2009; federal government warnings about these drugs and their links to suicidal ideation were also discussed, according to The Globe and Mail.

GlaxoSmithKline’s lawyer maintained that Sara was depressed before taking Paxil and had reportedly told a physician she was sad and experienced anxiety since mid-2004, sometimes suffering from three panic attacks daily by February 2006, said The Globe and Mail. The lawyer also said that after Sara began her Paxil regimen, she told her doctors she was more involved in school and sleeping better, citing physicians’ testimony, reported the Globe and Mail. The lawyer pointed out that Sara’s depression could have been linked to scholastic pressure and the overdose death of her brother in 2000, said The Globe and Mail. Her family disagreed. “All through high school, this kid was at the top of her class,” said Neil Carlin. “We never saw her as depressed,” her father added, quoted The Globe and Mail.

There were differing descriptions at the time the coroner’s inquest was closed, said The Globe and Mail. Ms. Carlin died in May 2007.

The inquest cannot assign blame in the death, but can make recommendations, said The Globe and Mail. Michael Blain, counsel to the coroner, provided jurors with some enhanced monitoring recommendations and asked Health Canada to improve how it informs doctors of the risks associated with these types of drugs. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a “black box” warning on antidepressant labels—the agency’s most stringent warning—pointing to the increased risk of suicidal ideation and actions in children and young adults taking the medications, said Reuters previously.

We have previously written about some other adverse reactions experienced with Paxil, SSRIs, and other antidepressants, including increased risks for cataracts; breast cancer treatment interference; premature birth and the likelihood of being admitted to an intensive care unit; miscarriage; and serious birth defects when expectant mothers take the medications, such as cardiac, pulmonary, and neural-tube defects, craniosynostosis (abnormally shaped skull), infant omphalocele (abdominal wall defects), club foot, and anal atresia (complete or partial anal closure).

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