FDA warns of epilepsy drug suicide risk

Harvey Kirk

By Harvey Kirk
Posted February 2, 2008


The FDA has issued an alert to healthcare providers regarding an increased suicide risk associated with 11 different antiepileptic drugs, including Neurontin, Lamictal, Lyrica, Trileptal and Topamax. A review of prior clinical trials demonstrated that users of the drug were more likely to commit suicide, attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts. The FDA alert comes one week after the drug regulators announced a new policy which requires many drug makers to evaluate suicide risks during clinical trials.

>>PRIOR POST (1/30/2008): FDA requires evaluation of suicide risk

The epilepsy drug suicide warning comes after the FDA completed a review of about 200 clinical studies which involved nearly 44,000 individuals taking either an antiepileptic or a placebo. Individuals taking one of the epilepsy medications were found to have about twice the risk of suicidal behavior, which included reports of self-inflicted death, suicide attempts, acts to prepare for suicide and documented thoughts about committing suicide.

The epilepsy drugs which have been linked to an increased suicide risk include:

  • Neurontin (gabapentin)
  • Lamictal (lamotrigine)
  • Lyrica (pregabalin)
  • Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)
  • Topamax (topiramate)
  • Keppra (levetiracetam)
  • Gabitril (tiagabine)
  • Zonegran (zonisamide)
  • Felbatol (felbamate)
  • Depakote, Depakene, Depacon (valproate)
  • Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol (carbamazepine)

Millions of Americans take one of these drugs to treat epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. In addition, Topamax is also approved for treatment of migrains and Lyrica is also approved to treat pain which results from fibromyalgia, shingles and diabetes.

The FDA indicates that healthcare providers should make sure that their patients who are using antiepileptics are aware of the signs of suicide and notify their doctor if any problems develop. Warning signs for suicide could include suicidal thoughts, withdrawal from society, depression or preoccupation with death. With the antiepileptic suicide risks known, patients will also be better able to weigh the benefits provided by the drug against the possible side effects.

According to FDA estimates, antiepileptics’ side effects could result in two more suicides for every 1,000 patients taking one of these drugs when the use is compared to those taking a placebo. However, they have cautioned that individuals currently taking one of the epilepsy drugs should not stop taking their medication without speaking with their physicians. Skipping doses of an antiepileptic could result in seizures.

 >>RELATED AREAS: Chantix Suicide Risks

5 Comments • Add Your Comments

  • Connie says:

    My son has been taking neurontin, zonagran and gabitril for years now. And he’s not the same.

    Posted on August 28, 2008 at 1:04 pm

  • Heather says:

    I took my mom to an ENT in Jackson, Ms bc she has had a sinus infection for about 6 months….she has had the sinus surgery and it didn’t help. I take her to this new ENT and he puts her on Topomax for the bad headaches from what we thought was sinus. He tells her she has acid reflux…anyway, she started this Topomax on Thursday …by Saturday she couldn’t think clear, took her 2 hours to get dressed, on Sunday in church she said she planned her suicide out. Thank God she told us about it and didn’t carry it out! I hate this medicine!!! And the doctor that prescribed her….he said nothing about suicide!

    Posted on April 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm

  • murad says:

    dear Connie, I myself have been on several epilepsy mediation for years since I was 12 yeas old. now I am 48. the meds that the doctors give you change your personality, thoughts, you are not the same as before. I would recommend your son see a naturopath , like I have and have been off meds for 1 year with no grand mal seizures. make sure the naturopath is licensed through the state .

    Posted on November 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm

  • Tina says:

    My 95 year old grandmother was on Lyrica and I found her on her back porch with a self inflicted gunshot wound to her head in 2009. I know without a doubt if she had not been on Lyrica she would have never ever done this. This lady never smoke drank or cussed. She attended church every time the doors were open. She loved life and she loved her family. This was way out of character for her. I’m wanting to spead the word to try to get this drug off the market or at least make people aware of what this drug can do(especially in the older population)

    Posted on November 27, 2017 at 3:45 pm

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