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Antidepressant Labels Will Warn
of Suicide Risk for Youth

Antidepressant Labels Will Warn
of Suicide Risk for Youth

by Kevin Caruso

August 22, 2003

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will update labels on antidepressants to reflect a possible link between the drugs and youth suicide, but the FDA remains cautious on the extent of the risk.

"While there remains a signal of risk.for some drugs in some trials, it is important to note that the data are not black-and-white in providing a clear and definitive answer," said Dr. Thomas Laughren, the FDA psychiatric-drugs chief.

The FDA indicated that the warning would "reflect the most recent information" about the risk, but has not yet determined the exact wording of the warning.

The new warning stems from recent studies and reviews, including a review from Columbia University which stated: "A statistically significant association of suicidal events [exists] with antidepressant drug treatment [and youth]."

The issue is complicated by the fact that untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide, and that studies show antidepressants help many people -- including many youths -- to recover from depression.

However, in 2003, British health officials stated that only Prozac was a suitable and safe antidepressant for youths -- they indicated that all other antidepressants may increase the risk of suicide for young people.

And the review at Columbia University, which actually evaluated 25 studies involving over 4,000 youths and eight antidepressants, indicated that children and teenagers who were on antidepressants were 1.8 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those on placebos.

The risk of suicide varied depending on the antidepressant, but one drug -- Effexor -- proved to be the drug that placed youths at the highest risk for suicide.

So the obvious question that comes to mind if Prozac seems to be the drug with the lowest suicide risk is: "Why not prescribe Prozac exclusively to young people?"

Answer: about 30 percent of young people treated with Prozac do not experience improvement in their symptoms. That leaves a relatively large population of young people in need of an alternative treatment.

Thus, treatment with alternative antidepressants may need to be considered but warrant extremely close monitoring.

If your child is depressed, please be aware of the potential dangers of your child taking antidepressants -- and not taking antidepressants. Weigh the risks carefully.

Consult with your medical doctor and at least one psychiatrist who specializes in youth depression.

And do not allow your child to take Effexor under any circumstances.

Prozac is the drug with the lowest risk for suicide, but even Prozac may cause suicidal thoughts and may have side effects.

So closely monitor your child when he or she is on antidepressants, and report any problems to his or her doctor and psychiatrist immediately.

Remember that untreated depression is the number on cause for suicide, so you must seek some type of treatment, but whether you allow your child to take antidepressants or not is up to you, your child, and the professionals that you consult with.

Do as much research as possible on antidepressants, and ask the doctor and psychiatrist as many questions as possible.

And when the FDA warning labels do come out, read them carefully, and take them very seriously.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.

Thank you.

I love you.

Take care,

Kevin Caruso

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