Suicide and Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceutical Injury Lawsuits
Today more than ever, the drug industry is thriving. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are developing and introducing new drugs at a record pace. Unfortunately, however, many of the drugs being introduced into the US market today are not well understood. Even drug researchers and other medical professionals aren't sure exactly how and why some of the medications they manufacture work, or what the potential pharmaceutical injuries of these medications might be.
Unfortunately, some of these unpredictable side effects can be devastating for patients. One particularly alarming and common side effect of many new medications is the increased risk of suicide and suicidal ideation, or thoughts. Associated with a variety of drugs for a host of psychological and other issues, suicide is a recognized side effect of the following drugs:
- Accutane, prescribed for treatment of acne
- SSRIs, including Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, and possibly other anti-depression medications
- Adderall, Strattera, and other ADHD medications
- Ambien, a prescription sleep aid
- Neurontin, approved for epileptic seizures but often prescribed for off-label treatment for pain, migraines, and bipolar disorder
Sadly, these are not the only popularly prescribed medications that have been linked to increases in suicide and suicide attempts among patients. In fact, almost any psychiatric medication can cause changes to the brain chemistry that may cause suicidal feelings and behaviors.
While in many cases, these side effects have been observed early in the drug approval process, drug manufacturers have often resisted acknowledging the effects and properly warning patients of the increased risks of suicide and suicidal ideation as a result of the medications.
Reports of increases in suicidal behavior began shortly after SSRI depression medications were introduced to the US market. However, rather than warning patients and doctors of these risks, many drug companies chose to manipulate study data to make the risks seem less serious. As a result, it was over fifteen years before the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring warnings on the labels of these frequently prescribed medications.
Children and Suicide
One group at particular risk for these dangerous side effects is children and adolescents. In fact, SSRIs were initially FDA approved only for adult use, and prescriptions for children was an off-label use, meaning that doctors could prescribe these drugs to children, but the drug company could not specifically market it for that use, as the drugs had not been thoroughly tested on younger patients.
Some symptoms of drug interaction, including akathisia, a severe form of nervousness or restlessness, may precipitate or exacerbate the tendency to act violently and to attempt or commit suicide in patients. Unfortunately, many of these early symptoms of dangerous drug side effects have been treated in the past by increasing dosage of the drug that is causing the problem.
In many cases, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are greatest during periods in which the drug level is changed—that is, when the patient begins taking the drug, when doses are modified, and when patients stop taking the drug—as a result of rapidly changing brain chemistry.
What You Can Do
Patients prescribed any of the drugs listed above, or other medications that may affect brain function and chemistry should be aware of the symptoms of some of these interactions, and should immediately seek medical attention if they begin to experience suicidal feelings, unexplained sadness or anger or other unusual mood swings, or if they begin to feel unusually jittery and restless. Any of these symptoms may be a sign that the patient is experiencing serious side effects, which could lead to suicidal ideation and attempts, or violent behaviors against others.
For patients and their families who have experienced these or other side effects, and who have already suffered damage as a result, it is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible. The drug companies have known about these side effects for many years in some cases, and have made every effort to deny and ignore these devastating problems. If you or someone you love was hurt as a result of a drug company's failure to warn you of these issues, you and your family deserve compensation for your losses. Please contact a pharmaceutical injury attorney who can help you evaluate your claim.