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Study Compares Antidepressants

Study Compares Antidepressants

Posted - Aug. 18, 2004 at 9:53 a.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reporting New warnings about a risk of suicide among people who take antidepressants. New research shows whether one drug is more dangerous than another.

There is a current debate over whether certain antidepressants increase the risk of suicide in patients, especially in young people.

To shed some light on the concern, researchers analyzed data from England on about 160,000 patients, ages 10 to 69. For roughly six years, all the patients used either Paxil, Prozac, Amitriptyline or Dothiepin.

Paxil and Prozac belong to a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

The researchers found the risk of suicide was essentially the same with each medication. It appears that timing is the issue more than which medication one takes.

The risk of suicide itself was nearly 40 times higher during the first nine days of treatment. That was really the most striking aspect of the findings.

During the first month of treatment, the research shows a patient on any of the antidepressants in the study was three to four times as likely to make a non-fatal suicide attempt or have serious suicidal thoughts, as compared to later, after a month of treatment.

Researchers propose a possible reason for this.

James Kaye, M.D./ Researcher: "Patients are started on treatment when they're at their worst, and so they're at highest risk at that period of time."

The study also showed teens on antidepressants had less risk of suicide than the adults in the study, and less risk than teens who were not on antidepressant medication.

More information to consider as patients weigh the risks and benefits of antidepressants.

The researchers note that the SSRI drugs have a better safety profile than the older antidepressants and are easier to take.

They also agree with the FDA's recommendation to carefully monitor all patients starting treatment on antidepressants.

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