Yesterday the FDA announced the findings of a two-year study on medications used to treat epilepsy and bi-polar disorder. The combined analysis of almost 44,000 patients in 199 clinical trials found that the drugs tested were twice as likely to produce suicidal thoughts in patients, when compared to those treated with a placebo. The study found 4 suicides and 105 reports of suicidal ideation among the 27,863 patients treated with the drugs, opposed to no suicides and only 35 reports of suicidal thoughts among the 16,029 patients treated with placebos. These results are reminiscent of a study from three years ago linking antidepressants to an increased risk of suicide. The antidepressant study also showed a two-fold increase in suicide risks, but the overall risk was shown 10 times higher than the risks associated with epilepsy.
These medications are primarily used to help epileptics control seizures and to calm the surges in energy and mood that, along with bouts of depression, characterize bipolar disorder. The drugs, which include Depakote, Lamictal, Topamax, Keppra, Lyrica and Neurontin, are sometimes prescribed for chronic pain and headaches, as well.
The FDA will convene a panel of experts to consider labeling changes for the drugs. Experts say that the results of the study should not change the way these drugs are used but patients taking these medications should be closely monitored for changes in mood and behavior.