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August 13, 2009

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Drug's suicide risk for young confirmed

People under age 25 who take antidepressants have a higher risk of suicide, but adults older than that do not, an analysis by US Food and Drug Administration researchers released on Tuesday showed.

The report confirms earlier studies and supports the agency's age-related warnings on the drugs' labeling.

US and European regulators have been sounding alarms on the use of antidepressant drugs since 2003 after clinical trials showed they increased the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in those under age 18.

In February 2005, the FDA added a so-called black box warning - the agency's strongest alert - on the use of all antidepressants in young children and teens to draw attention to the possible risks of these medications. In May 2007, the agency extended the warnings to young adults 18 to 24.

Many psychiatrists have criticized the warnings, saying they scare people away from effective treatment for depression, the leading cause of suicide.

In fact, recent studies have suggested the warnings triggered an 8-percent rise in suicide among youth and teens in 2004, the biggest one-year gain in 15 years.

A study published in June in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry said the FDA's decision to impose black box warnings for children and young adults had a spillover effect on depression care in older adults, resulting in a lasting decline in depression diagnosis and treatment.

Those researchers urged the FDA to revise its policy.


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