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FDA Advisers Don't Back Epilepsy Drug Warnings
Date:7/10/2008

Experts do find 11 anti-seizure drugs heighten suicide risk, and they recommend medication guide for doctors

THURSDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Anti-seizure drugs can cause increased suicidal tendencies in patients, but not enough to warrant the government's strongest warning label on them, a U.S. health advisory panel concluded Thursday.

The 20-member panel voted unanimously, with one abstention, to back the findings on 11 antiepileptic drugs studied by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In late January, the FDA announced it was considering a black-box warning after an agency review of 199 studies comparing the drugs, which are used by millions, to placebos. That review found that patients taking the drugs had about twice the risk of suicidal behavior compared with patients taking a placebo.

"We have concluded this was a real signal, and the signal applied to all drugs we studied," Dr. Russell Katz, director of the division of neurology products at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told reporters at a late-afternoon teleconference Thursday.

"We propose that labels for all these antiepileptic drugs be changed to include a box warning, and patients should be given a medication guide describing these events with each prescription refill," he said.

On Thursday, the advisory panel appeared to agree with him -- up to a point. It voted in favor of sending a medication guide to doctors detailing the suicide risks.

But a majority of panel members voted against adding the black box warning, saying the studies didn't show a high-enough risk for suicidal behavior.

"The general view of the committee was concern that patients or physicians would not prescribe these drugs in certain circumstances where they should," Katz said. "The committee voted 14 'no, it should not be described in a box warning, although it should be described in the label somewhere.' There were
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