Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Help for Suicidal Teens?

photo from: rense


Teen suicide spike no fluke

After a one year spike in the number of teen suicides, the number of kids committing suicide in the U.S. remains higher than expected, and that has doctors and parents looking for answers.

The troubling findings appear in a new issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For more than a decade the suicide rate among kids in this country had steadily and consistently declined, but that trend ended abruptly. In 2004, the U.S. saw the sharpest increase in suicide among young adults and children.

The suicide rate among U.S. youth younger than 20 years of age increased by 18 percent from 2003-2004 - the largest single-year change in the pediatric suicide rate over the past 15 years. Although worrisome, the one-year spike observed in 2003-2004 does not necessarily reflect a changing trend.

The 2005 suicide numbers, though, are available, and they don’t look promising, according to Jeff Bridge, a researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital who conducted the study. While the numbers dipped slightly between2004 and 2005 overall they are still up significantly.

The sudden and dramatic increase in pediatric suicides may reflect an emerging trend rather than a single-year anomaly, according to new suicide research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The hospital examined pediatric suicide trends over 10 years.

Researchers examined national data on youth suicide from 1996-2005 in order to determine whether the increase persisted from 2004-2005, the latest year for which data are available.

Researchers found that although the overall observed rate of suicide among 10 to 19 year olds decreased by about 5 percent between 2004 and 2005 (the year following the spike) both the 2004 and 2005 rates were still significantly greater than the expected rates, based on the 1996-2003 trend.



FDA Looking at Suicide Risks of Popular Drugs

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

It seems that some suicides might be linked to a variety of drugs that are surprising experts. In one case, the Associated Press (AP) reports a 15-year-old high school football player taking the allergy and asthma medication Singular hanged himself. In another, the AP reports that a physician taking Neurontin for an old back injury also hanged himself. The victims’ families believe the drugs, which were prescribed to relieve physical—not psychological—symptoms, upset their family members mental and emotional balance. Now, federal drug regulators are investigating, says the AP.

About two months following the teen’s suicide, Merck & Company—maker of Singulair—revised its prescribing literature to indicate that some patients experienced suicidal thinking and behavior. Merck said that the death could be a coincidence. “Singulair is a really effective drug that has been on the market 10 years and has been taken by millions of patients,” said Dr. Alan Ezekowitz, an asthma expert with Merck.

Meanwhile, the 54-year-old doctor began taking Neurontin, an epilepsy drug made by Pfizer, which is also prescribed for nerve-related pain and chronic back trouble. Pfizer said that since Neurontin was first marketed in the 1990s, the prescribing literature listed “suicidal” and “suicidal gesture” as rarely reported adverse events seen in clinical trials. “Based on an extensive review of our clinical trial data for Neurontin, we see no evidence to support the claim that Neurontin causes an increased risk of suicide-related events,” Pfizer said. The doctor’s family is suing Pfizer and represents one of about 250 such lawsuits.

The AP reports that just this summer, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “convened a panel of scientific advisers to evaluate the suicide risks of 11 anti-seizure drugs, including Neurontin.” Also, until recently, the FDA focused on psychiatric drugs, such as antidepressants prescribed to youngsters, when looking at medication-related suicide risks. Now, officials “unexpectedly broadened their concerns to include a medication for asthma, drugs for controlling seizures, and even one for quitting smoking,” the AP says. These drugs cover a spectrum of medical conditions not typically linked with psychiatric disorders.

Some independent experts are now seeing a gap in the FDA’s knowledge of how drugs affect the brain, says the AP, and that “even if medications are intended for physical conditions, some drugs can have unforeseen consequences if they are able to enter the brain.” A Columbia University research group developed a method for collecting and assessing information about suicidal thinking and behavior among those enrolled in drug trials. The information is used to measure a medication’s suicide risks, possibly helping identify such risks before a drug goes to market. Although the FDA helped fund the research, it does not require drug makers to utilize the system and only requires such assessments on a case-by-case basis.

“Even though a drug is identified as a drug for weight control, or smoking cessation, or asthma, these drugs often also get into the brain, so there is always the potential for having psychiatric side effects,” said Dr. Thomas Laughren, head of the FDA’s division of psychiatric products. “But we don’t have any unifying hypothesis as to why very different classes of drugs have psychiatric side effects.”


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