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General Health : Government Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


Antiepileptic Drugs raise suicide risk
By FDA
Dec 16, 2008 - 1:50:48 PM

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FDA Requires Warnings about Risk of Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior for Antiepileptic Medications

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced it will require the manufacturers of antiepileptic drugs to add to these products' prescribing information, or labeling, a warning that their use increases risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (suicidality). The action includes all antiepileptic drugs including those used to treat psychiatric disorders, migraine headaches and other conditions, as well as epilepsy.

The FDA is also requiring the manufacturers to submit for each of these products a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, including a Medication Guide for patients. Medication Guides are manufacturer-developed handouts that are given to patients, their families and caregivers when a medicine is dispensed. The guides will contain FDA-approved information about the risks of suicidal thoughts and behaviors associated with the class of antiepileptic medications.

"Patients being treated with antiepileptic drugs for any indication should be monitored for the emergence or worsening of depression, suicidal thoughts or behavior, or any unusual changes in mood or behavior,” said Russell Katz, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “ Patients who are currently taking an antiepileptic medicine should not make any treatment changes without talking to their health care professional.”

The FDA today also disseminated information to the public about the risks associated with antiepileptic medications by issuing a public health advisory and an information alert to health care professionals. Health care professionals should notify patients, their families, and caregivers of the potential for an increase in the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors so that patients may be closely observed.

The FDA's actions are based on the agency's review of 199 clinical trials of 11 antiepileptic drugs which showed that patients receiving antiepileptic drugs had almost twice the risk of suicidal behavior or thoughts (0.43 percent) compared to patients receiving a placebo (0.24 percent). This difference was about one additional case of suicidal thoughts or behaviors for every 500 patients treated with antiepileptic drugs instead of placebo.

Four of the patients who were randomized to receive one of the antiepileptic drugs committed suicide, whereas none of the patients in the placebo group did. Results were insufficient for any conclusion to be drawn about the drugs' effects on completed suicides. The biological reasons for the increase in the risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior observed in patients being treated with antiepileptic drugs are unknown.

The FDA alerted health care professionals in January 2008 that clinical trials of drugs to treat epilepsy showed increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. In July 2008, the FDA held a public meeting to discuss the data with a committee of independent advisors. At that meeting the committee agreed with the FDA's findings that there is an increased risk of suicidality with the analyzed antiepileptic drugs, and that appropriate warnings should extend to the whole class of medications. The panel also considered whether the drugs should be labeled with a boxed warning, the FDA's strongest warning. The advisers recommended against a boxed warning and instead recommended that a warning of a different type be added to the labeling and that a Medication Guide be developed.

Acting under the authorities of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 (FDAAA), the FDA is requiring manufacturers of antiepileptic drugs to submit to the agency new labeling within 30 days, or provide a reason why they do not believe such labeling changes are necessary. In cases of non-compliance, FDAAA provides strict timelines for resolving the issue and allows the agency to initiate an enforcement action if necessary.

The following antiepileptic drugs are required to add warnings about the risk of suicidality:

Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Tegretol XR)
Clonazepam (marketed as Klonopin)
Clorazepate (marketed as Tranxene)
Divalproex sodium (marketed as Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakene)
Ethosuximide (marketed as Zarontin)
Ethotoin (marketed as Peganone)
Felbamate (marketed as Felbatol)
Gabapentin (marketed as Neurontin)
Lamotrigine (marketed as Lamictal)
Lacosamide (marketed as Vimpat)
Levetiracetam (marketed as Keppra)
Mephenytoin (marketed as Mesantoin)
Methosuximide (marketed as Celontin)
Oxcarbazepine (marketed as Trileptal) Phenytoin (marketed as Dilantin Suspension)
Pregabalin (marketed as Lyrica)
Primidone (marketed as Mysoline)
Tiagabine (marketed as Gabitril)
Topiramate (marketed as Topamax)
Trimethadione (marketed as Tridione)
Zonisamide (marketed as Zonegran)
Some of these medications are also available as generics.

Health care professionals and consumers may report serious adverse events or product quality problems with the use of this product to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either online, by regular mail, fax or phone.

Suicidal Behavior and Ideation and Antiepileptic Drugs

FDA ALERT [1/31/2008, Updated 12/16/2008] - The FDA has completed its analysis of reports of suicidality (suicidal behavior or ideation [thoughts]) from placebo-controlled clinical trials of drugs used to treat epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, and other conditions. Based on the outcome of this review, FDA is requiring, under the authorities granted under the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA) of 2007, that all manufacturers of drugs in this class include a Warning in their labeling and develop a Medication Guide to be provided to patients prescribed these drugs to inform them of the risks of suicidal thoughts or actions.

The drugs affected by these safety labeling changes are commonly referred to as antiepileptic or anticonvulsant drugs (see the list below). FDA’s pooled analyses of 199 clinical trials of eleven antiepileptic drugs used as mono- and adjunctive therapies showed that patients who were randomized to receive one of the antiepileptic drugs had almost twice the risk of suicidal behavior or ideation (0.43%) compared to patients randomized to receive placebo (0.24%). This increase in the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior represents the occurrence of approximately one additional case of suicidal thinking or behavior for every 530 patients treated with an antiepileptic drug.

The risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior was generally consistent among the eleven drugs analyzed and was observed in patients who were treated for epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, and other conditions. The relative risk for suicidal thoughts or behavior was higher in the clinical trials for epilepsy compared to trials for psychiatric or other conditions. However, the absolute risk differences were similar in the clinical trials for epilepsy and psychiatric indications.

The increased risk was observed as early as one week after starting antiepileptic drug treatment and throughout the observed duration of treatment. The increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior was generally consistent among the eleven drugs with varying mechanisms of action and across a range of indications. This observation suggests that the risk applies to all antiepileptic drugs used for any indication.

All patients who are currently taking or starting on any antiepileptic drug for any indication should be monitored for notable changes in behavior that could indicate the emergence or worsening of suicidal thoughts or behavior or depression.

This information reflects FDA’s current analysis of available data concerning these drugs. Posting this information does not mean that FDA has concluded there is a causal relationship between the drug products and the emerging safety issue. Nor does it mean that FDA is advising health care professionals to discontinue prescribing these products. FDA intends to update this document when additional information or analyses become available.

For more information

Information for Health Care Professionals and Public Health Advisory: http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/antiepileptics/default.htm





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