Epilepsy Drugs Linked To Suicides. On January 31, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration warned that people taking epilepsy drugs were twice as likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts and behavior as those taking a placebo. Millions of people take epilepsy drugs. Such anti-seizure medications are used for a variety of illnesses in addition to epilepsy, including migraines, certain nerve-pain disorders, and psychiatric diseases such as bipolar disorder that themselves carry a risk of suicide. The FDA said it would be working with manufacturers of marketed epilepsy drugs to include this new information about Lamictal suicide risks in the labeling for these products.
FDA Epilepsy Drug Suicide Study
The FDA began investigating if epilepsy drugs pose any suicide risk in 2005. In doing so, the FDA analyzed almost 200 studies of 11 anti-seizure drugs, some that have been on the market for decades. Even though the FDA only looked at 11 epilepsy medications, the agency said the suicide warning applied to all epilepsy drugs. The FDA epilepsy drug analysis included the following drugs
- 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)
The FDA studies tracked almost 28,000 people given epilepsy medications and another 16,000 given dummy pills. According to the FDA, 0.43 percent of drug-treated patients experienced suicidal thoughts or behavior, compared with 0.22 percent of placebo-takers. The higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors was observed at one week after starting a drug and continued to at least 24 weeks. The results were generally consistent among all the different drug products studied and were seen in all demographic subgroups. There was no clear pattern of risk across age groups.
Overall, four people in the drug-treated groups committed suicide, and none in the placebo groups. According to the FDA for every 1,000 patients, about two more patients taking epilepsy drugs experienced suicidal thoughts than those who took placebo.