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Home > Research Articles > Many Psychiatric Medications May Be Ineffective in Preventing Suicide


Sunday, June 9, 2002

Many Psychiatric Medications May Be Ineffective in Preventing Suicide Business Wire - June 06, 2002 SEATTLE, Jun 6, 2002 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- In the pursuit to understand the complex nature of suicide and how to treat it, researchers from the Northwest Clinical Research Center and Duke University question the assumption that medications prevent or lessen the risk of suicide in patients that are both suicidal and mentally ill. The outcome of the study was surprising, but ultimately helpful in understanding the best type of long-term care these patients need. "There was no real difference in suicide risk among those assigned to trial medications, FDA-approved medications or placebo," says Dr. Khan of NWCRC. The researchers found that while medications can be an effective means to help alleviate psychopathological symptoms, there is no data to support it prevents suicide. The number of suicides in patients taking medications and placebos were similar among clinical trial participants. Detailed findings will be presented by Dr. Khan, Tuesday, June 11, 2002 at the 42nd Annual New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit (NCDEU) meeting, a conference sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Boca Raton, FL. To conduct the study, Dr. Khan, M.D., Medical Director for the Northwest Clinical Research Center in Bellevue, WA and Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine and his co-investigators collected data from the FDA's archives under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Using the summary reports (SBA) for all psychiatric drugs approved by the FDA from 1985 to 2000, they evaluated the suicide risk in clinical trial participants in relation to the amount of exposure they received to the medications. This is known as PEY (Patient Exposure Years) and is required by the FDA in reporting suicide possibility. The PEY was calculated for all attempted and completed suicides. 71,604 clinical trial participants were included in this study evaluating 26 psychotropics, 9 antidepressants, 5 anti-obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) agents, 3 antipsychotics, 4 anti-panic agents, 2 anxiolytics, 1 mood stabilizer, 1 anti-social anxiety disorder (SAD) agent and 1 post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) agent. The significance of these results is that they provide insight to what is currently not working in mental health care. "Further research to identify those psychotropics or other treatments that reduce suicide risk is essential," says Dr. Khan. In order to understand suicide more fully, additional research is required to explore the psychological state of suicidal patients and also to identify specific drugs that are effective in treatment. Health care professionals must treat the whole patient, not just the condition. Ultimately, the best type of care for these patients is a combination of the proper medication, therapy and understanding. ABOUT NWCRC NWCRC is a medical research facility dedicated to conducting the highest quality, patient-oriented clinical research. NWCRC specializes in clinical studies for patients with psychiatric indications such as depression, bipolar mood disorder, psychotic disorders, generalized anxiety and panic attacks, as well as diabetes or elevated cholesterol.