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Youth Suicide Warnings Are Slowing Antidepressant Sales

Study finds drop in SSRI prescriptions for children and adults

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Warnings about the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in young people who take antidepressants may be slowing the pace of antidepressant prescriptions, new research suggests.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first became aware of the possibility that antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might increase the risk of thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior in children and adults in the early 1990s. By October 2004, the FDA had issued a general warning about the increased risk for youths taking antidepressants.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, evaluated trends in prescriptions for antidepressants using data from Medco, a company that manages prescription drug benefits. They looked at antidepressant prescriptions by age: youth age 6 to 17; adults age 18 to 64; and seniors over age 65. They then compared prescription data by age group for three time periods: before the warnings were issued (May 1, 2002 to June 19, 2003); the warning specific to medications such as Paxil, which contains the SSRI paroxetine (June 20, 2003, to Oct. 15, 2004); and the universal or black box warning (Oct. 16, 2004, to Dec. 31, 2005).

The researchers found that the paroxetine warning resulted in lower prescriptions of paroxetine for young people and, to a lesser degree, older adults, as well. Other antidepressants continued to be prescribed at their previous levels.

However, after the more general black box warning, the researchers saw a "statistically nonsignificant" reduction in the use of all antidepressants to treat youths, but a significant drop in the use of all SSRIs in addition to paroxetine.

The researchers noted that between 1985 and 1990, antidepressant prescriptions quadrupled. The recent warnings have moderately slowed the use of antidepressant prescriptions, particularly for young people, concluded the researchers.

The study was published in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

More information

To learn more about the treatment options available to people with mental illness, visit the National Institutes of Health.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Jan. 7, 2008

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