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Link Between Antiepileptic Drugs and Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors Distilled

FDA’s warning about suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people taking anti-seizure meds distilled: “For every 1,000 patients, about two more drug-treated patients experienced suicidal thoughts than placebo-takers, FDA concluded,” according to New York Times article FDA Warns of Risks From Epilepsy Drugs. Other article highlights include:

Very rarely were suicidal thoughts or behavior reported. Still, the FDA found drug-treated patients did face about twice the risk: 0.43 percent of drug-treated patients experienced suicidal thoughts or behavior, compared with 0.22 percent of placebo-takers.

The FDA found drug-treated patients were at increased risk no matter their diagnosis, but that the risk was highest for epilepsy sufferers.

If you’re worried about a medication you’re on, don’t stop taking it without talking to your doctor. Stopping anticonvulsants abruptly can cause seizures or other neurological effects.

See Antiepileptic Drugs Linked to Increased Risk of Suicidal Behaviors and Thoughts for the full FDA warning. The 11 medications mentioned:

  • Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Tegretol XR)
  • Felbamate (marketed as Felbatol)
  • Gabapentin (marketed as Neurontin)
  • Lamotrigine (marketed as Lamictal)
  • Levetiracetam (marketed as Keppra)
  • Oxcarbazepine (marketed as Trileptal)
  • Pregabalin (marketed as Lyrica)
  • Tiagabine (marketed as Gabitril)
  • Topiramate (marketed as Topamax)
  • Valproate (marketed as Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakene, Depacon)
  • Zonisamide (marketed as Zonegran)

6 thoughts on “Link Between Antiepileptic Drugs and Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors Distilled”

  1. Oh…it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The government (AHRQ, PQRI and similar alphabet soup groups) believe in “evidence-based medicine.”

    Ok–where do we get “evidence”? Well, until we are able to get more research dollars from the National Institutes of Health, they will continue to come from the pharmaceutical industry.

    The problem with evidence-based medicine is: 1) the evidence consists of a skewed group of subjects that are hand-picked and do not represent “real-world” patients, including the “outliers”; 2) there maybe, just might be some bias in studies conducted by pharma???; and, in the case of headache, 3) most of the “evidence” consists of drugs that are newer, and not the ones we use day in and day out for prevention.

    Thankfully, the Headache Consortium favors a consensus-based approach over a strictly evidence-based approach, which is much more rational.

    If you have concerns about “evidence-based medicine” as health care reform evolves, SPEAK UP to your legislators. I hear many people expressing opinions, but I do not hear very many of them soliciting the voice of the patient.

  2. Yes, thanks for the article! A rheumatologist diagnosed my wife with fibro in a 30 minute visit and prescribed “Lyrica”. “Lyrica” doesn’t the name just sound wonderful. She took the drug for five days began slurring her speech,crying, and totally turned into a different person! I am trying to get her to quit taking it now. Lyrica should have been named “nightmare” It is time for these ads from the pharma companies to stop! We met with the rheumatologist and he still insisted that she takes the drug just less of it. People it is not worth the RISK!!! This Dr. in San Antonio never told us about this new warning! It is time to stop the advertising and it is time to stop Pharma from paying doctors!! This current system should be illegal. Who is the freakin government protecting?? If you are depending on the government to protect you “wake up”!

  3. My husband was wrongly put on Zonegran for a disorder he did not have, bi-polar disorder and he committed suicide shortly after being on it.

    I’m so sorry.


  4. I suppose the FDA must make these warnings but they are often misleading. I also read about this on the FDA site and am not sure what the actual driver is. Migraine sufferrs are statistically more likely to have clinical depression (call me stupid, but maybe it is the CHRONIC PAIN!) and epilepsy sufferers are also at a strain. What I do not see is a clear statistical relationship of these patients NOT on the drugs (i.e., preventive treatment) versus those who are and if then there is an increased suicide rate.
    In any event, I concur 100% with you. Keep taking your treatment. The best way to fight migraines is to prevent them in the first place.

  5. Thanks for the article and the update – and I totally agree with you that people shouldn’t just stop a med and should talk to the doctor. I always think with these things it’s important not to panic – double the risk sounds horrible but it’s doubling from .22 to .43 percent – still a small percentage! And that’s doubling the “behavior and ideation” – which is not the same as doubling the risk of suicide – ideation means ideas – there’s always a question – were people having those ideas anyway but on meds started talking about them more? I’d like to see more on what they mean by behavior – are they talking about out and out attempts or something less? And what we don’t get to see is a comparison with suicide amongst those with uncontrolled seizures or migraines! I know with some anti-depressants they see an increase in suicidal ideation, but I’ve heard that actual suicides are higher in people with untreated depression!

    – Megan Oltman

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