One expert is on record as supporting the FDA move.
"This is not new, it's something that has been known for a long time," Epilepsy Foundation Vice President John Schneider said earlier this year.
Schneider noted that some people with epilepsy may be clinically depressed, so it's hard to tell whether it's the medication or the condition that is causing the suicidal behavior.
"Patients need to know their medications," Schneider said. "The goal should be no seizures and no side effects."
But another expert found the association between antiepileptic medicines and suicide surprising.
"We do know that the incidence of comorbid affective [emotional] disorders and risk of suicide is higher in patients with epilepsy compared with the general population, and therefore it is not surprising to see higher incidence of suicide in the FDA report," said Dr. Gholam Motamedi, director of the Epilepsy Service at Georgetown University Hospital, in Washington, D.C.
However, the data showing a raised risk of suicide with medication use is surprising, Motamedi said.
"It's also surprising to attribute suicide to the antiepileptic drugs, per se, because a good number of these drugs are used in psychiatry for their positive effects on mood and depression," Motamedi said. "Nevertheless, this emphasizes the importance of screening for signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal tendencies in the epilepsy clinics."
For more on epilepsy, visit the Epilepsy Foundation.
SOURCES: Sandy Walsh, spokeswoman, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; John Schneider, vice president, Epilepsy Foundation, Landover, Md.; Gholam Motamedi, M.D., associate professor, neurology, and director, Epilepsy Service, G
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