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Prozac Raises Child Suicide Risk

Sep 14, 2004 | BBC Children who take the anti-depressant Prozac are at greater risk of attempting suicide, say US experts.

The drug is currently the only anti-depressant which doctors can prescribe to under-18s in the UK.

Other similar drugs are considered too dangerous because previous studies have linked them to an increase in suicidal tendencies.

However, an analysis by the US Food and Drug Administration has found that Prozac too may pose a risk.

The analysis was overseen by Dr Robert Temple, director of the FDA office of drug evaluation, who gave evidence on Tuesday at a hearing to determine whether tougher warning labels were needed for anti-depressants.

He said: "I think we now all believe there is an increase in suicidal thinking and action that is consistent across all the drugs."

On average, the analysis, carried out by experts at Columbia University, New York, found anti-depressants taken by children will cause an extra 2% to 3% to have increased suicidal thoughts.

Relative risks of suicidal behavior were highest among young people taking Luvox, Effexor and Paxil and lower but still heightened among those taking Celexa, Zoloft and Prozac.

Dinah Morley, of the charity Young Minds, told BBC News Online: "Children who are put on these heavy duty drugs are very ill, and sadly more likely to commit suicide anyway.

"We would urge the greatest care possible to be taken in using these medications, but there are times when a young person is so deeply depressed that anything that may help must be considered because the alternative is death."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is reviewing these new data and will seek the advice of the Committee on the Safety of Medicines on what if any implications there are for the current advice that the balance of benefits and risks of Prozac (fluoxetine) is favourable in the treatment of depression in children and adolescents.

"As with all medicines, the MHRA/CSM keep the safety of fluoxetine under critical review."

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