Citizens Committee on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

First Long Term Antidepressant Study Shows Fivefold Risk of Youth Suicide Compared to General Population

Latest TGA Reports Reveal 18 Youth Suicides and Attempted Suicides

Stack of Unopened PillsThe first long-term study of antidepressants causing suicide in youths confirms that while the risk of suicide is the same for all antidepressants-SSRIs and older tricyclics-the risk is five times greater than for the general population. Sebastian Schneeweiss, MD, ScD of Harvard Medical School and colleagues reported in Pediatrics: “Our analysis supports the decision of the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration to include all antidepressants in the black box warning regarding increased suicidality risk for children and adolescents initiating use of antidepressants.” Read more in this article at WebMD or on Reuters News Service.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights today called on the Therapeutic Goods Administration to add a stronger “black box” warning on antidepressants. Documents CCHR recently obtained from the TGA show that as of January 2009, there were 217 deaths linked to antidepressants, of which five were aged 10- to 19. There were at least two suicides and 16 suicide attempts. Experts estimate only 1% of ADRs are reported to the TGA, the figure could be closer to 1,800.

The Harvard study followed 20,906 children aged 10 to 18 in British Columbia prescribed an antidepressant over a nine-year period. During the first year of antidepressant use, there were 266 attempted suicides and three suicides. This is about five times the rate in the general population of teens in British Columbia. The FDA previously reported a twofold-increased risk of suicide in children taking antidepressants compared with those taking placebo.

CCHR also obtained from the Department of Health & Aging that for 2007-2008, 30,706 under 18 year olds were prescribed antidepressants, including more than 550 children aged 5 and under.

CCHR’s Shelley Wilkins said: “The Consumer Medicine Information sheet for three antidepressants does not disclose suicide risks until page two and then the risk is underplayed. Australian psychiatrists are being complacent about the suicidal dangers of antidepressants, potentially placing thousands of children at risk. The TGA must place a prominent black box warning at the beginning of the drug information packaging.”

To help consumers, CCHR recently launched the first psychiatric drug side effects search engine, based on drug regulatory agency warnings. Log onto http://www.cchr.org.au/.

CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and in Australia spearheaded informed consent rights for those labelled mentally ill. In 1976 it helped obtain a NSW Inquiry into psychosurgery that outlined informed consent rights now available in mental health laws.