Antidepressants May Get Suicide Warning Labels

Health officials propose changing safety labels on a class of antidepressants known as SSRI's, to note that the drugs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in patients up to age 24.

The FDA already requires a special boxed warning on SSRI's saying that the drugs increase the incidence of suicidal thinking in children and adolescents. Now the agency is trying to decide whether adults should be warned, as well.

At previous hearings, distraught parents told of the suicides of their children who'd taken these drugs. Other parents said the drugs saved their children. In response to all the evidence collected, in 2004 the FDA required warning labels saying that children and adolescents taking the pills might be more likely to consider suicide.

But the evidence for adults is less consistent. So the FDA has convened an advisory committee to consider it all. FDA staffers have supplied panelists with an analysis of 372 studies, involving more than 100,000 patients.

The analysis didn't turn up conclusive evidence that the drugs made suicide more likely. But it does show some people taking the pills may be more likely to think about suicide.

None of the studies have questioned patients the way you'd really need to in order to measure suicidal thinking. The National Institute of Mental Health recently announced the start of five studies that will do that. But results from those studies could be years in coming.

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