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Suicide Risk is the Same for Two Commonly Taken Antidepressants

Update Date: Jan 06, 2014 02:43 PM EST

Depression is a mental illness that impairs a person's ability to enjoy life. When depression is left untreated, it could lead to fatal consequences such as suicide. Common treatments include antidepressants and therapy. Despite the fact that antidepressants were created to help treat the condition, for some patients, these pills could increase suicide risk. In a new study out of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, researchers found that the suicide risk for two of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants was the same.

"It is important to study this group of children and adolescents because many children are treated with these medications in the U.S. each year and we need to understand the differential risks for suicide attempts and completed suicides," said study author William Cooper, M.D., MPH, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics and professor of Health Policy according to Medical Xpress.

For this study, the researchers examined young children and adolescents who were taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibiters (SNRIs). Experts have been worried that antidepressants increase children's risk of suicide. Due to these concerns, in 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicine Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency had mandated drug-manufacturing companies to include a black box warning label for antidepressants.

The research team examined data on 36,842 children between the ages of six and 18. The children were enrolled in Medicaid from 1995 to 2006. All of the children were new users of one of the two antidepressants studied. 47.4 percent had major depression disorder (MDD) and 25 percent had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Other mental health issues that the participants had include anxiety and conduct disorders.

The researchers reported that 415 of them had to be medically treated for a suicide attempt and four had died from suicide. The team concluded that there was no substantial evidence supporting the fact that suicide risk differs for the two types of antidepressants.

"These findings provide important information about the relative risks of the more recently approved antidepressants to help guide decision making by patients, their families and their providers," Cooper said. "But more research is needed to understand other safety aspects of medications used to treat children so that families and providers can make informed decisions."

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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